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!
No 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.