Throughout our lives, we come across times of change, whether we looked for it or not and whether we want it or not. Obviously, how we react to these changes will affect the next portion of our life.
Some changes are easier to react to than others. For instance, if we actively decide to make a change for the better (new job with better hours, more pay, or a better location or a new house/apartment, new relationship, etc.), the change is much easier to live with. You’ve made the choice yourself and you’re benefiting from the change in a positive way. Does this mean everything is rosy? Nope.
No matter the change, good or bad, people experience stress when making decisions. Even the best scenario usually incurs some doubt, self-reflection, and hesitancy. In the instance above, 99% of what’s happening is good, but I’m sure there are questions being asked as to money, security, commitment, etc. There are bound to be questions as to whether this was the right move or not, and ANY change is stressful. It makes you go outside of your comfort zone when you do new things. This is normal and it’s part of life. These issues, though, are much more easily dealt with when the outcome is a pretty positive one.
What about the times when change occurs that you didn’t ask for, those things that happen that are a surprise and have an outcome that you didn’t expect? These changes can include job changes/terminations, unexpected health issues, personal relationships that change, etc. There’s a whole different set of questions that arise. Maybe some of them include why this happened to you, did you do something to make it happen, is there a purpose behind this change, and how it will end up?
When change happens that we didn’t ask for and we have a pretty good idea of the outcome, it’s more stressful because you probably didn’t anticipate it and it forces you to deal with circumstances and feelings that you weren’t ready to deal with. Maybe it forces you to ask hard questions about things that you’ve tried to avoid for awhile. Regardless of the fact that we have a pretty good idea of how things will end up, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the time between now and then. How will you get through it? Will the outcome be what you’re anticipating? What do you have to do to make it a good result? You’ll likely have to make some changes, but the outcome is something that you can envision and work toward.
There’s another kind of change, though. Change that is required when things happen completely out of the blue, seem to make no sense, and you have zero idea of what to expect. Change like this can occur when you lose a loved one, your finances change and put your means of support at risk, you experience a divorce or relationship change, or you experience health issues that leave you uncertain of your future (such as chronic illness). These changes usually inspire a lot of stress and anxiety. You not only don’t know why this happened, but you don’t know what’s going to happen going forward either! This creates an enormous challenge because you don’t understand why this change occurred and you likely have no idea how to change the circumstances. These types of change are typically more long-lasting, which will affect you even more.
What do we do when this type of change happens to us? There’s no rhyme or reason as to why it happened, no set outcome, no steps to take or plan to adhere to. Sometimes, all we’re left with is to look inside ourselves, have faith that things happened for a reason (even though we may not know what it is yet), and move forward the best way that we can. I think sometimes we put such high expectations on ourselves to have an answer for everything that we set ourselves up for failure. Sometimes we simply don’t have an answer or a path to follow. We might just have to make one up as we go along and that’s okay. I think the best thing we can do for ourselves in this situation is to give ourselves a break. Sit back, think about the situation and make a decision on how you can best manage what’s happening. You may have to change things as you go along. That’s okay. There is not always a right or wrong. Sometimes it’s simply what you’re capable of doing at the moment.
We have to learn to be flexible in these circumstances, something most of us aren’t great at. I know that I’m not. I like to have things all laid out and in my control. When I experienced several things that were not in my control, one after another, it definitely took a toll on me. What I’ve learned is that my outcome would likely have been the same whether I stressed about it as much as I did or simply went about my business doing the best that I could and NOT stressing about it 24 hours a day. Did I learn my lesson? Likely not. Behaviors and habits are not easily changed and I’m at an age where it’s more difficult. However, I can try to implement these insights into my situation going forward and see it through a different perspective. I’m using what I’ve experienced to balance my thinking from always needing to be in control to trying to have more patience and faith. I’m not always successful, but I’m trying!
The bottom line is that change happens. It happens to all of us. It happens every day. Sometimes we expect it and sometimes we don’t. We have to manage it regardless of the circumstances. For those changes that are good, enjoy the good stress, the excitement, and the anticipation! For those changes that are not so great, do the best that you can given your circumstances. Think about what’s necessary, do the best that you can to establish a plan of action, carry through on what you need to do, and try to manage the stress and uncertainty the best that you can. No matter how much we try, we cannot control everything and we cannot prevent change! We can, however, change how we react to it and make it a little bit easier on ourselves.