Coping with Change

Part 1: The Stressful Nature of Change

You get your budget all worked out and then gas prices soar and your commuting expenses send you back to the drawing board. A new baby arrives, someone falls ill or dies, and everything changes. You have to change plans, change roles, learn new skills, and devise new routines – but how? There wasn’t enough time to keep up with things as they were!

And what about hormones? Ouch! Puberty, PMS, menopause (male as well as female) – no matter where we are in the life cycle, we have to adapt to the changing landscapes of our own and our family’s bodies. And when it comes to body chemistry, the changes are daily and even hourly. We never know how we’ll wake up – it all depends on how we slept, what we ate the night before, what we see coming in the day ahead. And when it comes to “love”, we never know when we’ll “be in the mood” for it!

Sometimes we are overwhelmed by changeNo wonder life and living sometimes feel overwhelming!  Not only are we dealing with all the changes that come with the territory of being human, but the pace of change is getting faster. Even a positive change, like a new computer or appliance, that helps us in the long run, makes demands on us. We have to take “extra time” for awhile to get things done as we learn the ropes on our new gadgets.

What is it that makes change so challenging, and how can we come to live with it with more ease?

In these pages, we’ll explore how we are impacted by change, the qualities we need in order to “ride the waves of change” more easily, and some ways to increase ones ability to live with change.

Understanding the Stress of Change

Although change is in the very nature of life itself, change places demands on us – it is, in essence, a “stressor.” We tend to think of stress as a “bad” thing – but it is actually simply part of life and living.

“Stress” is a word that has different meanings in different contexts – a paper on physics would define it differently than an article on health. In both cases, however, the word either applies to the forces that affect an object or human being, or to what goes on within the object or person in response to that force.

Every event in our lives can be viewed as a force that is affecting us, whether the impact is on the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual levels (or all of the above). Something happens and we respond. Whether or not we actually “feel stressed” has to do with how well we are able to respond.

Let’s look at one of life’s major stresses – moving to a new place – to explore how change affects us and what we need to respond well to it. When we arrive in a new place, we feel disoriented. We have to reorganize our home life from top to bottom, finding a new location for everything and developing new routines. If we’ve moved far enough from our old home, we need to create a whole new network of resources.

All of this places demands on our energy, creativity and time and we can’t simultaneously juggle all of the obligations and activities we were previously involved in. After a while, things “settle down” and our energy is once again freed up for other things. We feel as if we can “get back to normal.”

Such is the nature of change – it draws on our basic inner resources of energy, creativity and intelligence, and it makes demands on our time. We need a clear mind, rested body and calm spirit to meet these increasing demands that come with change. And we need one more vital ingredient – flexibility!

Please understand that when I write about the qualities we need to cope with change, I don’t mean to imply any of us can become perfect at it. None of us is a superman or superwoman who always breezes through everything in life without distress. To some degree or another, we all get “stressed out” by change.

The ability to accept ourselves as imperfect (like every other human being who ever lived), is absolutely essential to developing the clarity, calmness, and especially the flexibility, that we all need in the midst of change.

Read further:

Part 2: Warning Signs of Being Change-Challenged, Qualities You Need to Cope with Change and How to Develop Them
Part 3: Getting the Support You Need to Manage Change


Coping with Change — 5 Comments

  1. I have been reading through this site recently and really enjoying it. I know deep down that I am a healer. I know I have been used as an instrument of healing before. But right now I am in need of healing. The last two years of my life have been very transitional and I have been dealt a lot of blows. The biggest blow was the discovery that my spouse of 20 years was cheating on me, even with my close friend. I have separated from him, I am living on my own, going through divorce, working (I am a crisis worker with women fleeing domestic violence), dealing with all sorts of aftermath, I met someone new, entered a new relationship (which is incredible!) and I am doing my best to parent and love my children through a horrible time.
    Everytime it feels like things are leveling out, something else happens. I feel like my energy is not receiving the time it needs to recharge, to heal itself. I am not sure what to do about this. I really watch what I put my energy into. I turn down invitations even when they look like fun things, if I feel my energy level is too low. I am taking care of myself, making sure I rest, though I lack energy to exercise. I get massage from a therapist I know and trust who is very intuitive. I surround myself with those I love and who love me back. But still, I feel my energy draining.
    I just ordered the CD on energy healing. Do you have any advice or suggestions?

  2. Daphne, Sounds like you are handling this all very well and doing the right thing by getting as much rest as you can as well as nurturing massage. Try finding someone to do the energy healing CD with you, taking turns giving and receiving. Also you might want to try using our free meditations on our Meditation Oasis podcast.

  3. Daphne,

    Congrats on the courage. Very few take the plunge and take care of themselves. Very few have the balls to think about it for more than a few seconds. It is way too hard. Even though very few talk about it, most people prefer to ignore the blow and stick to the familiar than to truly deal with them.

    So Mazal Tov 🙂 you did it! You honored yourself and went through with a divorce and just to top it off – you proved yourself that you are not emotionally closed (or a worst fear: damaged) and you are already open to a new heart.

    Your hear is still healing. You don’t get a “new” heart when you heal the broken one. It is a process. Like you said – giving things the time they need.

    I suggest you don’t think of your current stress and “heavy feelings” as something that should “pass” or “not be there for long”. My feelings are that your feelings are telling you something. See if you can re-frame your suffering. re-frame your shame. re-frame your ideas of change. this is really your journey. right now. Even a few months after you posed this question to the world.

    So what are you expecting to happen these days? Don’t. That worry is an old habit. By now, you already know that you will be fine, heck – you ARE already fine, just changing the viewpoint on stuff that don’t matter anyway.

    Would love to hear how you are doing these days.

  4. Hi everybody,
    Regaring change, there is a Tibetan meditation which is incredibly powerful for me and is supposed to be so for anybody. The right way to do it completely should be received from a qualified teacher, but I think I can tell a bit.
    We have only one certainty in our life, which is that this body will die. No other certainty, you can check.
    Yet we are harmed by change during our life because somehow we don’t believe in change (and any change is a form of death). We think things are forever, sort of ultimate. Then whenever whatever change occurs, and especially death, it is such a great blow. So the meditation is to somehow think of your own death.
    We may die at anytime, isn’t it? It’s so uncertain…
    SO just think you’re dead the next minute. Relax. The body is gone, just the essence of the mind remains. Remain in that state for a few seconds or minutes. Enjoy the freedom from transitory material states. Let go of the attachement to physcial appearance of “me”, “she”, him, my house, my job… All the appearances of this world vanish at the time of death.
    After that meditation, you can feel that whatever happens in your material, external life is of no more big importance. I mean, there is no more need to hold so tightly to ephemeral situations.
    At least that’s my experience. Freeing oneself from the strong will to proof one’s own existence as something lasting, firm, immutable.
    This method is part of “chod”, which means cutting -cutting through attachment.
    More simple, you can sing the following song :
    Doors are closing, doors are opening
    Doors I am closing, Doors I am opening
    I am safe
    It’s only change
    I am safe
    It’s only change!

    The thing is that the nature of the mind is indestructible, while the relative world is completely unreliable. If we could relate and root ourself in the indestructible, instead of putting all our hopes in what is so unreliable, then we would be fearless.
    In anycase, thinking of imparmanence and seeing that it is the very nature of life helps us.

    Also, enjoy your present breath. At least, for the time being, it’s there. But breath will also end one day. Therefore let’s enjoy our present breath. There is joy, life, energy, health….
    Wish you a gracious dance on the waves of impermanence…

  5. Oops, I want to add an important point regarding the death meditation. What I wrote may sound like death is nice, a sort of problem free state. Please don’t misunderstand. When we do this meditation, we are alive, somehow resting and focusing our mind to contemplate the nature of life (which is Impermanence). But when we actually die, most of us are not in a restful state, using our minds in a meaningful way. Rather, at time of any big change, we are overwhelmed by fear, feelings of insecurity, etc. So we can’t expect death to be the solution to our suffering, of course. Death can be extremely painful. The thing is that, if we do meditate on death and impermanence while we are alive and safe, then we can cope with change and death when these events occur. We have to be prepared before. Well, we all know that.
    This meditation can be done everyday (especially in the evening, before going to bed) and even every minute of the day. But don’t remain spaced out. Just come back to the reality of relative appearance, impermanent world.
    To me, it is such a great source of relief from tension and fear.
    In Tibetan Buddhism, contemplation of impermanence is regarded as the most profound technique among all spiritual techniques to grow in fearlessness and makes oneself deeply appreciative of whatever situation one finds oneself in.
    It is better to train oneself before facing great change, but still, we can use our painful transitory situations as a basis for this sort of contemplation. (without pain, sometimes we are so forgetful of the truth of our condition…) So far, it has been powerful for thousands or millions of meditators, for hundreds of generations. Please try it! Lessening of suffering is guaranteed!!!
    Yes, maybe there’s a panacea on earth….!
    Actually, the panacea is to be in the truth…
    and impermanence is the truth of our condition.
    Who would disagree?
    Have a good contemplation!