By Ethena Williams, Clinical counsellor/social worker
Change is a given and constant factor in human existence.
We adapt to stages of life, major cultural shifts, technological change, and in smaller ways such as change in plans to meet a friend for coffee. As a social worker and clinical counsellor, I help people transition through difficult changes in their lives.
The natural life transitions from infancy to aging are challenging on their own, but when we add unexpected loss, trauma and sickness, things can be overwhelming.
When change happens, we experience a process of disorientation and chaos, reorientation, and then integration. Think of a time when you went through change, perhaps when moving to a new home. There is the initial feeling of disorientation and chaos, then reorientation as things start to take shape, and finally integration when the new becomes familiar.
How do we manage change well?
Taking care of ourselves increases the ability to cope when change happens. A balanced approach to self-care includes giving compassionate attention to physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs and social connection.
The attitude you choose determines your success. Put change into perspective and choose to assist rather than resist the process. Resistance keeps us stuck. We assist the change process when we start by accepting the change.
The book, Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson, is a great resource for learning how to manage change well. Some change is predictable. The book suggests we can take control and plan ahead by anticipating and monitoring for change.
Being open, flexible, and letting go of things that no longer apply allows us to move with change. By actively participating in the change process, we can find nuggets of joy along the way as we integrate into the new situation.
Managing change well draws on internal resilience and external resources. The fact that you have reached this point in your life is a testament to your own resilience. Using external resources and supports is a strength. Talk to people including family, friends, professionals. Go to places where you are encouraged and supported, such as places of worship, community facilities, social events. Use things such as assistive devices and technology.
We are all students of change. We learn more about ourselves, others and life as we navigate new situations and challenges all the time. We watch others and they watch us and learn from our example as we navigate change.
There is a line in a song by Lee Ann Womack that says, “Time is a wheel in constant motion always moving us along”. Change brings new opportunities as, in the words of Alexander Graham Bell, “when one door closes, another opens”.
The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. Contact email@example.com. For local mental health resources/information, visit www.mdsgg.ca or call 1-844-HERE247.