4 Ways to Cope With Change

As you’ve probably noticed, the world has recently seen some of the biggest, most drastic changes in decades. Congratulations, you’ve made it! What are your secrets to adapting to the changes? I’ll share 4 of mine. 

From personal experience and wisdom from teachers, I bring you ways to gracefully move through constant changes and build resilience. When we talk about butterflies as metaphors for change and transformation, we’re given little insight about the process to reach that beauty and ability to fly. Challenges and the midst of metamorphosis can feel disempowering, so let’s harness some of that protective chrysalis energy!

  1. Creative expression It probably seems like I think creative expression is the answer to most of life’s trivia. I recommend it for just about everything! I do this because I understand the emotional healing power it has, and just about everyone can do it. When changes are happening, it’s easy to feel like everything is slipping out of control. While creation isn’t always controlled either, we are consciously accessing the way we intuitively process the world and our reality. The creative process is a natural way to understand and work through all that is occurring inside and outside of ourselves. It’s often messy which echoes the chaos of our complexity. Even if you don’t think you’re good at anything art related or if those masculine logic, reason, linear thinking qualities seem to be more dominant in you, try it anyway! Balance yourself out. Maybe the idea of drawing sounds dreadful. Pick something else! There are all kinds of writing implements, paper textures, instruments, sewing/knitting projects, choreography, and recipes for your benefit. It could be playwriting or beading that fits your fancy. Explore and see what feels good. Work with tools like mandalas and labyrinths. You could write and reflect on different metaphors/similes that mirror your experience. For example, “my sadness feels like the waves of the ocean” or “starting a new job is the release of falling leaves.” Follow those images to see what comes up. Are you drowning in the waves or floating? What do you do in the ocean to keep from being carried away, therefore what can you do for your sadness? Asking for a life preserver might be reaching out to a friend to talk about your sadness. Taking breaks might be relaxing your body treading water so you don’t get too tired. For the other one, what color are the leaves? Is the new job stripping you bare or do you feel lighter? What story are you telling through metaphors? You don’t have to like the product you create. It’s more about the process.
  2. Stillness and Centering is difficult for a lot of people. It’s usually difficult for me, especially when I’m experiencing discomfort or wanting to resist whatever change is occurring. I travel a lot, and the pandemic has of course required physical stillness which has been difficult for me to adapt to. Though the pandemic has undoubtably resulted in hardship in many ways for many people, we are seeing the subtle ways the global pause has been necessary. It relieved some of the pressure we place on the environment, like pollution for example. However, the stillness I’m referring to as a remedy for coping with change is more of a general pause than limited to physically being in one place. It can be in the form of a moment we take to notice our surroundings. I’ve seen people with reminders to breathe on their phones or watches. Stillness means really observing things as they are in the moment— thoughts, sensations, situations, other people, etc. We can learn so much by being still and listening. Part of what has been so challenging and frustrating for some people throughout the pandemic has been not knowing what to do with themselves and not liking or fearing what stillness has shown them (overthinking/personal habits, relationships not working out, etc.). Whatever it was might’ve always been there but might have been avoided longer if we were able to carry on filling our lives with distractions. Stillness give us truth. This could be why the pandemic seemed to prompt society to turn belly-up. More issues “suddenly” surfaced alongside it (politics and democracy, media, sexism, racism, police brutality, domestic-violence, education and assessment, human rights, mental health, you name it). Stillness has gifts too. It has a lot to do with grounding which can be done in your traditional mediation positions or by walking barefoot in the grass, digging your feet in the sand, and putting a hand over your center (solar plexus). I learned to visualize a ball of energy or light in the area of my body that feels pain and restlessness. In the same way practitioners of martial arts move energy in their bodies, even feel its form between their hands, I imagine holding that ball wherever it is. Going a step further, when I’m ready I might imagine pulling its plug and letting it drain down releasing it to the Earth. Connecting with our bodies and the Earth is a great way to recenter ourselves anytime, but there might be a more notable difference in times of impactful change.
  3. Grieve and Feel Change means losing something in some form (and gain too), but we forget that grieving does not necessarily have to be about a person or pet. We can grieve a loss of place and a loss of what once was. Sometimes the otherwise happy changes like sending a child to college involves grief. The parent or caregiver has lost the extra interactions in the house with the child and their role as they knew it in the child’s life has shifted. There is so much ambivalence in everything, bittersweetness. We might focus on the good in this situation and celebrate it (the sweet), but neglect the part that needs equal attention, the bitter. It’s great and often helpful to see the beauty in changes, but if that’s all we see, we aren’t fully integrating the complete experience. Give permission to accept the pain, feel it and cry. Transfer your energy into a stone. Hold it tightly and imagine it sucking out your feelings. Many cultures will have some kind of funeral, burial, or death ceremony to provide space for grief. Create your own ceremony with candles and maybe an alter to mourn the various deaths and celebrate the various births and regeneration that come with changes. Since changes are constant, grief must be too.
  4. Find Your Comfort There’s a reason we give infants blankets and stuffed animals. We can’t hold them all the time, so having something soft they can hold onto helps them to learn to self-soothe. When changes become difficult to navigate, what is something constant to comfort you? Maybe you still have a blanket you like to wrap yourself in! A mug with a warm beverage is nice, taking a bath, your dog or cat, a favorite movie, a favorite album to listen to, a necklace to wear, and comfort foods all might be effective for you. Of course, we want to be at a point where we don’t need comforts all the time. I don’t eat pasta every night (although I could) because I know I need a balanced diet despite how comforting pasta is to me. It’s okay to “eat your feelings” sometimes, but comforts don’t make the best habits. Let the comfort serve its purpose without becoming too reliant on it, especially to the point where it could effect your health. With that said, a mindless reality TV show, or the adult comforts we gravitate towards, work much like what we learned as infants. The time we take to indulge in what relaxes us and restores our sense of security is time well spent. It equips us to keep going with the flow.

May you shift with grace. If you like this page, please share it!

The changes of Fall: harvest to growing pumpkins

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