Accepting change makes you stronger

Do you like changes? Most people would respond “no” or say that they would go along with it with some discomfort and initial reluctance.

Our nature is to create patterns. In general, our systems are more comfortable with routine than with change. Once a pattern is established, our left-brains will quite happily keep marching along that path. Yet, change is a natural part of life and has been said to be the only true constant one can count on.

Contradiction is a fact of life. On the one hand, we need stability and perform well when we feel secure and established in our working and home lives. On the other hand, we can become stagnant, complacent and uncreative when we shy away from change or when we find we simply cannot cope with it.

Change is defined as the replacing of one thing for another; a substitution; a transformation or transition from one state, condition, or phase to another; or something different. There are many types of change: the type that you initiate such as a new hairstyle or moving to a new home, and the kind of change that is imposed upon you, such as the a death of a loved one or loss of a job.

No matter the type of change, it can be a major source of stress. Some sources say that coping with a change is similar to coping with a loss or a death. If this is the case, you could experience the range of grief stages that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross described as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Just as there is a variety of change, there are different ways to cope — there are those who thrive on change and look at it as an adventure of possibilities, and there are those who see changes as a curse or are paralyzed when faced with it.

Change, like stress, can be beneficial when harnessed. People who thrive on change seem to share some common attributes. They tend to be in good mental and physical health, have abundant relationships, are resourceful, are resilient and possess a positive outlook. They recognize that mastering changes involves looking at the world through new lenses.

Alexander Graham Bell wrote, “When one door closes another door opens, but if we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, we do not see the ones which open for us.”

Gale Loeffler cites the following tips to help you cope with change. They may seem basic, but are vitally important in helping make change a more positive experience.

• Develop support relationships at work and home. People with friends on whom they can rely during stressful times experience fewer negative effects of the stress change can bring. They also remain healthier, are more successful and live longer.

• Examine your work environment. Change what you don’t like it or accept what you can’t change. If you can do neither, then it’s time for a new job. When starting anew, re-examine the old. What worked that you would like to take to a new job? What should be left behind?

• Take care of yourself. Eat a balanced diet, exercise, get enough rest. Take time to relax with friends and family. Enjoy your hobbies. Listen to your body. If you don’t think these suggestions are important, look around at others who aren’t using them. You’ll soon discover how just how important these basic wellness tips are.

• Build self-esteem. There is only one you. You have special talents and interests. List what you like about yourself and note your special skills. Also, list what you appreciate about family and friends. Tell them and make them feel good, too.

• Be open and flexible. Knowing that change can happen at any time helps you accept an adjust when it occurs. Most people are eager to settle into comfortable routines. Realize that your present routine may only be temporary.

• Keep your “sunny side” up. The old song went something like, “Accent the positive and eliminate the negative. Keep on the sunny side of life.” A positive attitude helps you feel good about yourself, goes a long way toward improving your health and helps you deal with changes that come along.

• Take control of your life. What can you do now that will help you cope with the changes in your life? Make a list of options. What are the positive and negative outcomes of each. Practice finding the good in life’s changes. It’s not what happens to you that causes you to be happy or unhappiness, it’s how you react to what happens. Your reaction governs the outcome. Take charge of your thoughts and actions.

• Use resources available to you, including self-help publications, support groups, friends, money, loving family members, special talents, good health, time and a positive attitude. All of these resources and more can help when you’re facing a change. Learn to recognize and use them.

Change is inevitable, and most change is for the good. No one lives a life free of change. If you accept that it will happen, the acknowledgment will help you move more gracefully when such an event occurs.

• Tram Vuong Meadows is the Therapeutic Foster Home Program Therapist for Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i. She can be reached at tmeadows@haleopio.org, or Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i Inc., 2959 Umi St., Lihu’e, HI 96766.

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