Coping with change is sometimes easier said than done. Depending on the nature of the change, and if it is something we are in control of, we can find ourselves feeling anything from excited enthusiasm to dread and despair. Most people find that having a plan for managing change helps them enjoy the exciting changes, and weather the storm of the unwanted changes.
Don’t underestimate the impact of change on your stress levels. Changes mean that our brain has more to learn and keep track of while continuing to make daily life decisions and remembering our to-do lists. Sudden major change can be a blur that has us second-guessing ourselves, whereas slower beneficial change can be wonderful when we realize the success, but painstaking along the way. Having an approach to change means that you don’t have to just improvise. It gives you a way to make sense of things, and to make more efficient decisions.
Mindfulness and change
Mindfulness of the here and now, along with acceptance of reality as it is, means that you don’t have to add judgment to the experience; this makes things much less messy. Let’s say you’ve gotten a promotion that means you’ll have to go to work a few hours longer for a while. The promotion is great, but those extra hours will eat into your evenings with your family. Now, you could immediately throw a fit and refuse the promotion, or you could slow down, accept that this is a curve-ball for family time, then let yourself think of a solution; perhaps talking it over with your family, and spending extra-special time on the weekend, or being really present as you tuck the kids in at bedtime. Most changes give you a chance to consider how to approach things, but not always.
Sometimes you have to make a fast decision to manage change. For instance, you see a car in oncoming traffic suddenly swerve into your lane. Having practiced driving, you are able to quickly maneuver around the car. While it may feel automatic, it’s not entirely automatic at all. Your body certainly goes into a heightened state of awareness (stress, anxiety) and allows you to think and move faster. Having practiced making good decisions in this kind of situation before helps you do it efficiently when it matters.
Strength-based change management
An integral part of our work involves assessing the strengths you already have, then leverage them in creating effective strategies for coping with life. If you know that you are extremely effective with flowcharts when it comes to finding creative solutions, then you may decide to flowchart your way through a decision regarding life changes. On the other hand, if you know that you get into a very effective mindset when you paint, then you should probably stock up on paint when change is afoot.
Knowing how to decide which strengths to use in different circumstances is an excellent example of where mindfulness really pays off. When you strip judgments away from reality, you’re left with a more basic truth; something that is often easier to deal with than the emotional burden of judgment. And if you’re already judging, that’s ok: you just notice that then shift back to your breath (see more about meditation).
Cognitive-behavioral counseling and change
The cognitive-behavioral approach to counseling means that we look at your thought patterns and what kind of behaviors they lead to. Then we assess the consequences of these behaviors, either positive or negative, helpful or not, etc. Those consequences feed back into your unconscious mind and help shape the template that you make decisions from. When you change a thought, you get a new behavior; when you behave in a new way, you get new consequences. Positive consequences are enjoyable and encourage the thought-behavior set (cognitive-behavioral set). Negative consequences are designed to deter the thoughts and behaviors that led to them. But sometimes we get our wires crossed and need to uncross them. Get in touch with me to get started.