Ebb and Flow

Change and transition can be excruciating.

Sometimes you are thrust into situations where you have to make a change.  Losing your job. Unplanned pregnancy. Divorce.  Welcome to an opportunity to to be frustrated, creative, opportunistic, and at the end of your rope.  The benefit of change is that we are accustomed to it.  Our bodies are always changing, quick changes as well as slow.  We shed and grow millions of our bodies' cells every day, minute, hour, second.  We exchange old thoughts for new, change our minds, make u-turns, and try new routes to work.  At least we have a framework for understanding change.  

But what about those changes that show up unannounced?

Uninvited. Like they own the joint, except that they're really party fouls. They're the ones who drink too much, forcing you to clean up or improvise in ways you never thought you would have to.  If I have encountered a thousand people in my work, I've discovered a thousand different ways people handle change.  Some melt down.  Others rely on the people closest to them to help guide them through their challenges.  So what's the best way to handle change? In my work, I've noticed some consistent themes about folks who master change.

Stay in the present.

Its really easy to keep yourself up at night worrying about how the bills will get paid if you don't have enough business during the week, but worrying about it is not going to help you at 11:30 at night.  When you find yourself worried sick about what's coming (or not coming) tomorrow, you have to practice the discipline of presence.  Fight the temptation to go downstairs and watch TV or indulge in a late night snack that will jump start your brain activity. Instead, stay in bed, take some deep breaths and focus on where you are.  Even if you have to repeat a mantra like, "All is well," or "Go to sleep." It might sound strange, but it is better to trick yourself into believing nothing is wrong and that the world is as it should be to get a few hours of counting sheep.  Your challenges will be waiting for you in the morning. 

Stay connected.

I know a church that provides a free public class called Career Transitions.  The course connects current business and community leaders with folks in periods of career change. The class exists both to provide connections and for mentorship or advice.  It is easy to isolate yourself when you are going through a major life change, whether someone you love has died or you have left your old job.  Strive to remain connected to your friends, family, and perhaps new connections like a grief group or a transition support group.  

Develop a routine.

My dad is the king of transitions. He's gone through more than I can count.  One of his winning strategies for keeping his sanity is that he keeps track of everything he does.  This may sound simple, but the practice of writing down everything you do like daily journal will help you look back at the end of the day and remind you what you accomplished.  Did you talk to your son? How many business contacts did you call?  Did you write that piece you were working on? Try keeping an hourly log and see if it doesn't help you get through each day. Sometimes just knowing you're still standing is accomplishment enough.

Dr. Mathis Kennington