The only constant in this life is change.
It is one of the world’s most famous quotes and for good reason. It might also be one of those quotes where you are like “yeah, yeah, got it, things change” but when change actually does hit, you sometimes feel less prepared than you would have ever thought.
Maybe you are feeling this way right now. I certainly have felt waves of it. I have written about subjects like Memento Mori, The Last Time and One Day You Are Going To Die which at their core, are all about the fact that change can happen to anyone at any time. Life is inherently unpredictable and can be flipped upside down at a moment’s notice. Of course, it is one of those things that we think that we understand until it actually happens to us. And here we are.
Change is difficult to adapt to – whether it be a positive or negative change. It can turn our lives upside down and throw us far from our comfort zones. Change can come into our lives as a result of a crisis, as a result of choice or just by chance. It doesn’t matter where it comes from though really, because change is change.
What matters is how we respond to it.
Everyone goes through thousands of changes throughout their lives but with the arrival of the Coronavirus, many of us are going through some quite drastic changes and adjustments at the same time. Here are a few ideas to help you navigate changing times a little more smoothly…
Accept change with grace
Whether change is good or bad, you should accept it with grace and peace of mind.
People often struggle to adapt to good changes in their lives because they feel that they either don’t deserve it or aren’t ready for it. Other times, people are quite happy with mediocrity and a lack of responsibilities and something like a positive change applies tension to that. The only way to do the right thing – to accept the positive change – is to embrace it and allow yourself to transform into something better.
Unsurprisingly, people also tend to struggle with negative change. Sometimes, when negative change can be sensed, it is wise to look for alternatives so that the blow can be softened. For example, if you know your company is struggling financially, you can begin to look for another job. Even if everything turns out okay with your current company, you might just find something even better out there.
On the other hand, the negative change can simply pop out of what seems like nowhere. This is what we are all experiencing right now with the Coronavirus. Unfortunately, with these black swan events, there is not a lot you can do apart from listen to the experts and accept the situation. No matter how much you shout at the TV or lament that your favourite sport has been postponed, it won’t make the virus go away.
Instead, your energy can be used for picking up a new hobby, doing a home workout or spending time with loved ones via apps like Skype or Zoom.
Change is here whether you like it or not, you may as well accept it and make the most of it.
Stress is inevitable, but don’t stress about stress
During any period of change, stress is inevitable. External circumstances change, your days change, your responsibilities change and most likely, your brain is left picking up the pieces to make sense of it all.
This is a natural part of change. The unnatural part that many of us find ourselves entangled with is stressing about stress. Maybe you get worried that stress is going to make the change harder to adapt to, so you stress more. Maybe you think you are stressing more than anyone else, so you get stressed about that. Maybe you think that you aren’t stressing enough, so you artificially ramp it up until you are feeling nice and stressed.
Whatever the situation, stressing about stress is not healthy and it’s not useful. You might think that this sounds obvious, but worry and stress can become a strange addiction that is difficult to shake if you have been practising it for long enough.
As Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal argues in The Upside of Stress, your reaction to stress has a greater impact on your health and success than the stress itself. If you believe stress kills you, it will. If you believe stress is trying to carry you over a big obstacle or through a challenging situation, you’ll become more resilient and may even live longer.
It’s important to realise that most of the time, a little bit of stress is natural and is there to guide you through times of change. If you can recognise that it is just trying to pull you through a tough period, most likely it will. Likewise, if you resist stress and think its the worst thing in the world and then start to stress out about stressing out, you will probably meltdown or explode.
Take a step back, expect a little bit of stress but don’t ever let it run away from you.
Come back to reality
One of the most tempting things to do when a big change enters into your life is to wish that things were different. Maybe you spend a lot of time reminiscing about how great the times before this change were and how you took them for granted. Maybe you look towards the future and dream of a time when things finally change for the better. Essentially, you try to take yourself out of the present moment by any means possible.
This is a mistake and only makes the present moment worse. You don’t have control over how long the change lasts or how long it takes you to settle into the change. So the longer you try and distract yourself from your present reality, the more difficult it will be to cope moment to moment, day to day.
The only way to deal with this is to come back to reality. Yes, there are challenges, but there are also plenty of opportunities in a time of change. Life is happening right now, and it is much easier to deal with if you are here to deal with it.
Surviving and adapting is in your DNA
You may need reminding of this cool fact but every single ancestor that you’ve ever had survived long enough to reproduce.
Not just your ancestors, but the entire human race has also overcome challenges that include famines, droughts, wars, disease and other horrible events and made it through. Everybody faces difficult changes in their life. There is a very high chance that millions of people have experienced a similar change before, are experiencing a similar change right now and will experience a similar change and challenge in the future. You are not alone.
One of change’s most cunning tricks is making us think that we will never be able to adapt. That this specific change will tear our whole world apart and that we will never recover.
It’s a lie. They’re all lies. We’re made of much sterner and malleable stuff than we give ourselves credit for. As the blog Pocket Mindfulness puts it:
The human race has survived so long because of its ability to adapt: to adapt to different climates, different food sources, and different terrains.
We humans are experts at overcoming challenges, finding solutions to problems, and evolving to do things more effectively and efficiently.
So despite how sad you feel, or how reluctant you are to embrace change and move on, know that your ability to do this is rooted in your DNA.
This is the reason why when you do accept change and begin to adapt, you will feel more positive within yourself and start to thrive again.
You are a born survivor. It’s time to remember it and act like it. You are going to be okay.