Coping with Change: Embracing the New Normal
Have you ever felt like your life has been suddenly thrown into a blender? You’re gliding along and everything is lining up just perfectly and then – wham! You’re hit with not just one, but a multitude of challenges all at once. That describes my summer.
First, my 83-year-old mother-in-law was told she had to move. The property owner, a longtime family friend, had died awhile back and the family wanted to sell the house my mother-in-law rented the past 12 years. And for a senior woman living alone on a fixed income, having to move was daunting news. Combine that with the fact she’d lived next door to us for years and was used to being helped on a near-daily basis — we wanted to find something close by. But finding affordable housing in our Seattle neighborhood with no stairs and parking facilities where average rents exceed $2,000 a month was going to be next to impossible. In short, we had a real challenge on our hands!
And if that wasn’t enough, in the arduous process of helping his mother downsize a lifetime of belongings, my husband severely sprained his knee. This left me with having to deal with moving van and junk removal companies, property managers, an apartment search, and moving the rest of his mother’s belongings. Plus this happened right in the middle of Seafair! And as a board member, I was already actively involved with Seafair events.
Change does not have to define us. Spiritual author and speaker Deepak Chopra says, “All great changes are preceded by chaos.” And while it’s true – unexpected change can leave us feeling a little overwhelmed, the fact is, change is the one constant in our lives we can’t control. So we need to take a deep breath, step forward and “embrace our new normal.”
How we adapt to change can actually have a very positive effect on our personal growth. We can choose to view change as an opportunity to broaden and deepen our personal experience; to strengthen our own resiliency and become more empathetic of others challenged with the same situation. Rather than being afraid of change or avoiding it, we can use difficult or challenging times to grow. Here are some tips I used to navigate my own change which I hope can be useful to you when you’re faced with similar challenges.
- Respond to what you can control. Rather than feeling victimized by the upheaval or challenge facing you, assess what you can manage and take charge of it. In the midst of what you can control, look for positive ways to react to find viable solutions. I spent hours on Craigslist looking at apartments, and amazingly, found one a mile away in our neighborhood with no stairs and a parking space. (God was smiling on me!)
- Accept change will be hard. Knowing change will be hard may comfort you when life feels tough. Expecting change will be difficult gives you comfort because you can tell yourself, “This is normal. It’s supposed to be hard. It will get better with time.”
- Be forgiving of yourself. Don’t let self-guilt get in the way! Know that change can zap your energy – and often your time – don’t expect to keep up with other areas of your life with the same energy you’ve been able to before.
- Stay close to the familiar. As much as possible, keep up with familiar routines like seeing close friends, working, going to the gym, etc. Change is stressful. So surrounding yourself with friends who care about you, exercising, getting plenty of rest and eating right can help fortify you.
- Don’t resist change – Even though your first reaction may be to run quickly in the other direction, ignore what is happening, or avoid others in the process, try to adjust your perspective to view change as an opportunity to grow. You may feel shock, denial, or even deep grief and despair. This is normal. And the process can be slow. But remember, the greater the change, the larger the opportunity for personal growth.
- Ask for help. Some changes are simply harder than others. And there is no shame in asking for help. Really. Suffering silently and alone will do you no good. And family, friends, and colleagues will be there for you! So, let them. I hired a couple of workers from Casa Latina to help move big items and clean after the move – boom! Done. And then I did what any other grown woman would do – I called my parents for help! My mom, a master organizer, helped unpack boxes and organize my mother-in-law’s new apartment.
- Find a “new normal.” Change is hard because it doesn’t feel familiar. Establishing a new normal, or new patterns of being for our life, will sustain us. The old normal doesn’t exist anymore. And no matter how much we want it to, it will never return. So finding ways to embrace the new normal is by far the best option. (I’m still working on this one).
The road ahead may be bumpy. But by developing a “bigger picture” attitude to the change, it really is possible to learn and even gain from it. If you have tips on how you’ve successfully coped with change, I’d love to hear them and add them to the list.