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Dealing With Change

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Let's talk about dealing with change.

Some people find change exciting and exhilarating... an opportunity for growth and adventure. Why is change so painful sometimes?

I'll start with an illustration from something we all have in common... our human bodies.

Our bodies like to maintain homeostasis, or a constant temperature and metabolism. Any time there is a change in our environment, we feel it until our bodies manage to adapt... Like when the temperature changes from Fall to Winter and Winter to Spring, our bodies try to get comfortable, and usually succeed within a couple of weeks.

This is why we are piling on clothes as the temperature drops to 50 degrees, then peeling clothes off in the Spring as the temperature rises to 50 degrees. Same temperature, but our bodies have started to recognize a new "normal" temp, and let us know when they're outside of their latest comfort zone.

It's the same thing with exercise. If we start a new exercise routine, our bodies make the changes needed to cope with the new level of exertion. But if we continue that same routine for a few weeks, it ceases to be challenging and we don't lose any more weight or gain any more cardiovascular fitness or strength.

That level of exercise becomes the new "normal" and we need to push further or try a different type of exercise... coaxing our bodies to rise to a new challenge.

We are Resistant to Change

In our deepest psyche, we as humans are resistant to change. Any time we experience a change in our environment, our minds try to assimilate it... to make sense of it and accommodate it within a new "normal".

Often this is painful. This is sometimes so emotionally painful for people that they avoid change at all costs. Even changes that need to happen, such as starting a new job after losing an old one, or watching a child move away and go to college, can be painful.

One of the most painful things about change is a fear of the unknown. As long as everything is controlled and constant, we really have nothing to fear. But when things start changing, we feel vulnerable, out-of-control and apprehensive about what might happen.

Having a heads-up for what might happen, or demystifying change, can take a lot of the pain out of it... making it easier to cope and helping us deal with change.

Demystifying Change

So let's demystify change. Let's fortify ourselves and prepare for change by realizing the following....

Our routines will change. If we start a new job, that comes with a change in many routines. If we have a new baby, especially if it is a first child, our routines are dramatically altered. We need to accommodate changes in routine.

Our relationships will change. Our friends and family will have their own life experiences, they may move away, a co-worker who we've spent 40 hours a week with for years may retire. We need to accommodate a change in relationships.

Our roles will change. If we have an elderly parent who falls ill, our role as a child will shift. If we have an adult child who gets married, our role as a parent will shift. We need to accommodate a shift in roles.

Our assumptions may change. Depending on our successes and failures, or how we perceive events in our life as successes and failures, our assumptions about our self-worth can change. Our assumptions about an organization, a leader or a belief system can change as we grow older, learn more and experience more.

Any time you are faced with a change, you can put it into a category. This helps when dealing with change. Is the change planned, or unexpected? Is this a positive change, or a negative change? Being able to describe something allows us to demystify it, to take some of the pain out of it.

Other Ways of Dealing with Change

In the midst of a transition, ask yourself whether you're just beginning the transition, in the thick of it, or nearing the end of the transition. The answers to these questions will help you decide how best to cope with the change.

If the change is really bothering us, we can do one of two things... 1) try to modify the situation that is causing the pain, or 2) modify our way of thinking about the situation.

If we can modify the situation, great! For example, if an annoying co-worker in the next cubicle makes our new job miserable, see if the boss will let you move to another location within the building. If we are in a new relationship and are stressed out about what the other person might think of us, we can ask them: how do I come across to you?

If we can't modify the situation, we can modify the way we think about it. We can focus on the positive aspects of the change and emphasize those when we talk to others about the transition. We can choose to lay aside the victim mindset and experience the change as an opportunity for growth, for adventure or for self-improvement rather than a scary unknown.

We can surround ourselves with a support system of friends, family and other helps. Lots of organizations and institutions exist to help people through certain transitions, such as student aid organizations, meetings of people who are recovering from addictions or support groups for the parents of children with autism.

We can surround ourselves with people who affirm who we are, who have gone through that type of transition successfully themselves, and who will help us through the rough times.

Finally, we need to have patience. Just as our bodes eventually reach homeostasis and our heart rate returns back to normal after exercising, we will eventually become comfortable again, following a life change.

Don't be frustrated too quickly, give it time. It can take months or years to settle into a new set of circumstances. Let your experience fill you with compassion for others who are undergoing change.

The Unchanging One

Remember that we serve an everlasting, unchanging God.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8, KJV)

He knows what we are going through and he has a plan to give us a future and a hope.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

He promises to work all things together for our good.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, ESV)

God is a Solid Rock to which we can cling when the storms of change threaten to disturb our peace.

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. (Psalm 18:2, NIV Read the whole psalm here...)

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