Just when things feel cozy and you think you know what’s coming next, the world changes. We can’t always predict or control what comes next, but change is part of life, so we need to know how to cope with the good and the bad. Director of Life Management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox Jeff Rossman, Ph.D., says we can all do things to prepare ourselves for the surprises in our world and in our lives:
Stay true to the authentic you. Wars, financial crises, crime and other distressing news can feel overwhelming, but they cannot touch what’s inside you. Take time each day to affirm the core values that define you, and live and act with them in mind.
Remember what’s important. If you put all your hopes on material assets and numerical goals, you can always be disappointed. In fact, the research shows that level of wealth has no bearing on happiness, except for those living in poverty. On the other hand, the love of your family and friends, your creative pursuits, the good work you do, and your relationship with nature tend to be more reliable sources of enduring satisfaction.
Do things that give you joy. Financial markets can tumble or you could lose someone dear to you, but you can still play with your dog, teach a child to whistle, hike your favorite path, write a poem, watch favorite movies, read great books, get together with friends and dance all night. The things that you enjoy most are often cost-free and always there for you.
Live in gratitude. When you’re facing changes that frighten you, remember those things that comfort you. Make a list of everything you’re grateful for, including your loved ones, your home, your body and your pets. Take it to a seemingly mundane level to see how much you have to be thankful at any given moment – the view from your window, a sweater you love, a song on the radio, the meal you’re about to eat. Think about all the things you can enjoy each and every day.
Don’t dwell on things beyond your control. If you can help yourself or others, then by all means take action; otherwise, don’t spin your wheels on a negative path. Give up the constant news and market updates – you can’t change what’s happening anyway, so give yourself a gift by reducing your exposure and practicing patience. Understand what you can realistically do for the world, your neighborhood or your family, and use your talents and resources in the most effective ways.
Become the solution. Many people rise to occasion in remarkable ways during times of crisis or change. “Those people who give of themselves often find strength in the midst of loss,” Rossman says, “like the mother who lost her son to AIDS and became a volunteer delivering meals to advanced AIDS patients, or the displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina who helped organize relief efforts for other victims.”
Try something new. When your world is changing in ways you didn’t choose, make some changes by choice. What have you been meaning to try? Explore a new interest that will excite your imagination and redirect your energy. Dust off your art supplies, get started on your memoirs, learn another language, volunteer in a community project or take a class. The possibilities are endless.
Talk about it. Other people share your anxiety about change, both on a global and individual level. Be willing to receive and offer support. You can talk things over, acknowledge your feelings, vent a bit, then look for positive ways to get through change with practical suggestions and friendship.
Exercise, eat well, stay healthy. Don’t let the anxiety of change put extra stress on your health. When the going gets tough, the tough get moving. If you’re already eating well and exercising, stay on course or ramp up your efforts. If you’ve been meaning to make positive change, this is the time.
“I’ve worked with a number of guests who have coped with the stress of a divorce, a lawsuit, or financial setback by training for their first marathon, triathlon or charity race,” says Rossman. Your wellness and immunity are affected by stress, he reminds us, so do everything you can to stay healthy. Besides, regular exercise and good nutrition will always make you feel better, think more clearly and cope more effectively with all types of stress.
Remember, too, that change can be as promising as it is scary. You might move to another city and fall in love with it. Or you could find a new career or passion when you least expect it. Change gives you the chance to explore the possibilities that exist every day, looking in new directions with fresh perspective. And when change brings adversity, it can challenge you to grow, to develop resilience, wisdom and maturity that are a measure of who you are and can be. This is a time when you can learn to cope – and to thrive.