When Change Overtakes You
In my last post, I talked about what to do when your life is disrupted in a major way. My top suggestion was to find support in any way possible and that you may need to be vulnerable to do so.
I’ve felt dissatisfied since writing it though. There are so many types of disruptive changes and so many ways to move through them. There is no universal formula.
As part of that blog post, I wrote that knowing what to do after a tsunami-type upset will depend on “where you are in your journey, how bad the tsunami is, where your true center is, and what you trust or distrust. Have you been through something like this before, and did you navigate it and come to feel acceptance and peace in retrospect?”
Assess the Type of Disruption
Firstly, some changes are giant and overwhelming (the tsunami that sweeps you off your feet, as I mentioned in that post). How big the wave is influences your perception of what is happening. If you have lost a loved one and it is the first time, all bets are off. You haven’t done this before. It will take time to process, move through those emotions, find support, and adjust. If, on the other hand, the new change isn’t fully disruptive, you can expect to adjust more quickly.
Assess Your Mindset
Also, how you’ve navigated past changes will influence how you navigate this one. If you have done a lot of healing work and your emotional awareness is well-established, this time may be difficult to navigate but not impossible. You will find your internal voice saying all the supportive things, “This is just a change. Yes, it feels terrifying, but I’ve come through things like this before. It is normal to have big feelings. Discomfort does not mean I am doing something wrong.”
So this is my first piece of advice: notice what you are thinking and challenge any thoughts of negative outcomes. Thoughts like, “This will ruin my life,” and “I’m always gonna be stuck here” are not going to be super helpful. However, if you notice these thoughts and change them to, “It’s really frustrating to feel stuck right now, but I know I can navigate frustration and being stuck because I’ve done it before,” your response to the situation is more fluid. This adjustment will help so much.
Assess Your Strategies
A second idea, dependent on your experience, is to assess your coping strategies and your mindfulness skills. How will you support yourself through this emotionally wobbly time? Remember, you are both mind and body, and working with one will influence the other. Remember your body has physical needs. You may need to increase supplements, eat nutritious food, and work at getting good sleep and exercise (remembering always to be gentle with your expectations).
What Works For Me Right Now
My tools for emotional navigation look like this:
- Writing. A lot of thoughts and feelings muddle around in my head. When I write, they magically straighten themselves out on paper. I feel calm and peaceful. I almost never share this writing with anyone. It’s full of scribbles, swear words, and unintelligible writing, sometimes with teardrops splashed on the pages. Writing will not work for everyone, though. What is your personal, specific practice that allows you to express your thoughts or feelings?
- Yoga, walks, and other exercise. Big changes produce big feelings. Feelings are energy that wants to move through the body; when they build up unexpressed, they feel explosive or scary. As we move our bodies, emotions are released from the places where we hold tension, stress, fear, anger, and more. If you feel restless, try moving. If you don’t have a movement practice, try anything you think might work, or ask friends for suggestions. For me, it’s yoga. (Bonus: Yoga is meditation and movement together. Yoga brings me back to the present moment and both physical and emotional awareness, which leads me to…)
- Emotional awareness. For me this looks like sitting, breathing deeply, and allowing images and words to rise within me about any feelings I have. This is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes I don’t want to face these feelings at all. Remembering a few key things helps me: as I breathe, I make space for the energy of feelings to move, so I try to keep taking deep breaths. Also, through years of practice, I know feeling the feelings is so much better than avoiding the feelings. I now choose to honour what I feel instead of avoiding it; this is how my self remains a sanctuary through any emotional storm.
- Lowering expectations. You may be the magical swimming unicorn who can navigate tsunamis while still working your 9 to 5, cooking healthy meals, exercising, and ticking tasks off your to-do list, but I’m not. Crisis means my capacity is lower, so I lower expectations to match. When self-care is paramount, it looks like this: take care of me first, then address what needs my attention most. My daily task list of 5 to 8 items lowers to 2 or 3. In crisis, the priorities are self-care, my family, and my clients. I cannot please all the people and do all the things.
- Spiritual connection. Honestly, I feel spiritual connection through all the above items. Types of connection are intertwined through all we do and are. However, it’s time to sit solidly down in spiritual practices that have helped you before. Connect with who or what you believe in. Sometimes I find it’s hard to hear my inner voice when I’m navigating fear or pain, so I connect through journaling or oracle cards and look for signs of encouragement and support.
- Boundaries. Crisis boundaries look different than life-is-fantastic boundaries. It’s time to say “no” to anything that feels like too much for now. If something is extra work but feels like it would bring you comfort, then say yes. My client work is spiritual and heart-centered, so I see clients when I can. It also helps to structure my days.
- Transition awareness. Your mood and capacity will change day to day. Notice when you seem able to do more tasks and be more present with others. This is the time to reintroduce “regular life” in small increments. Continue to rest and take care of yourself.
- Gentleness. No matter what I’ve said above, gentleness is the lens through which I navigate each day. This goes hand-in-hand with lowering expectations. It’s all very well to feel I should eat good food, exercise, write, and sleep, but sometimes all I can do is eat ice cream and watch Netflix–and this is A-okay.
You Can Navigate Change Successfully
These suggestions are tailored to my process. You need to find what works for you, but I have 100% confidence that you can build a toolbox of connection, mindset, and strategies that will support you as you learn to swim in rough waters. Eventually, when you see a storm coming, as your gut tightens and grief leaks from your eyes, you will take your toolbox under your arm and bravely face the wave. You have built your own sanctuary, and all will be well.