Coping With Change

It’s easy to fall into hopelessness and despair, especially in the face of crisis, which effectively calls for CHANGE.

Let’s agree that COVID-19 has brought into question most everything that we once considered “normal.”

Meeting Face to Face: used to mean literally seeing the face of the person with your own eyes in a place where you are only about two or three feet apart. Now, face to face meetings means meeting online via your favorite platform.

Going Somewhere: used to mean physically walking, busing, driving, flying, etc., to the desired place. You’d go to your class by walking into it. You’d go to a concert, to the movies, to someone’s house, to a yoga class, to the gym. Now, the phrase “going somewhere” is used to virtually going there, in addition to the physically showing up.

Those are only two examples of what used to be normal, which has now changed into some other type of normal. And now that word: “CHANGE:” If you just ask a handful of people whether they like change, you are likely to hear a big NO!

Our brains are equipped with a wonderful talent, which is called pattern recognition.

It’s the ability to see the pattern in things that are repeated in a similar way and be able to make deductions about future expectations of that same type of pattern. In the absence of such ability to recognize patterns and predict future events, the brain has to fall into a sudden explorative effort to make sense of things, so that you can be protected against danger.

So, every time the brain has to adjust itself to “CHANGE,” it has to naturally fall into that explorative mode, which often is experienced along with anxiety. So, the reason most people say they don’t like change is that they experience anxiety in the face of change.

What to do:

1. Recognize that the change itself is not causing anxiety:

It’s your own perception of the matter that has changed, which makes it anxiety-provoking. For example, you might say to yourself: “I can’t deal with computers, I can only relate to people when I see them in person, I can only experience joy and connection when I go to my place of worship in person.”

The truth of the matter is that the brain would not know the difference. It’s your thoughts and assumptions, particularly when they are narrowed and/or one-sided that make the coping too hard and anxiety-provoking.

 

2. Practice self-compassion

What might you say to a child who is impatient or apprehensive about something? You’d likely help that child with grace and speak with them about gratefulness and patience, remind them of their virtues, and invite them to use their resilience to cope with what is at hand.

Right now, that child is YOU. The thoughts that you run through your head are the actual narratives you say to yourself, which then will affect your mood. So, speak with compassion and kindness to yourself.

 

3. Don’t go solo, ask for help

Sometimes we might feel embarrassed to ask others if they feel the same way as we do. Or we might expect too much from ourselves and in the process end up feeling inadequate. The truth is: no one can handle all of life’s challenges alone.

We all need one another, and at times we all need some professional help. So, speaking to others about how they are coping with “CHANGE” is a very helpful thing to do. And, of course, calling your therapist and asking to receive some help in coping with change is perhaps one of the most helpful things to do.

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