In this column I’ve written about embracing change because it prepares you to think more creatively, and it’s part of the Innovator’s Lifestyle. I’ve also written about accepting change even if you’re not completely comfortable with the idea because of the potential for emotional and intellectual growth. But, I haven’t written about sudden unexpected change, and how to deal with that — so that is the topic of this month’s column.
Now, I’m not talking about an unexpected change that comes with a lottery win or other good fortune. Those are situations that expand your choices and options in a positive way. I think we can all happily deal with that sort of change.
Instead, I’m interested in how to deal with an unexpected change that means a loss of some kind has occurred. It might be a change that will lead to more prosperity and growth down the road, but at first you only notice the loss.
A loss can mean so many things: loss of a job, a home, a loved one, money, time, etc. It could be a loss you caused, unintentionally or not, or it could’ve been an accident. The bottom line is that you are uncomfortable and you want to get back to your comfort zone.
Here are 9 things you can do to help overcome your loss and become at ease with your new situation.
1. Rest and relax. Take a deep breath and don’t react; and don’t make any quick decisions. You need time to evaluate the situation; time to get past your emotions, and think rationally. So do something fun just for you; go for a massage or an ice cream sundae.
2. Grieve. You’ve lost something that was valuable to you. Let your emotions flow. Feel the pain. So that you can get past it. Don’t numb it with drugs or alcohol – that will only delay the inevitable and retard your growth.
3. Lean on the people you love for support. Your friends and family will help you get through this. Let them know; don’t keep it to yourself. Talking things out will make you feel better, and your support group may have some good suggestions for you on what to do next.
4. Assess and assimilate the new information. After you’ve finished grieving, don’t look back and wonder what you could have done differently. Resistance is costly, or — if you ask the Borg — futile. Look instead to see what you can learn from this situation, and start to determine how you’ll move forward.
5. Meditate. Find the stillness and calm your mind because this will allow you to achieve some clarity in your thoughts and feelings. You need clarity to help you choose your next direction.
6. Focus on your goals, or your purpose in life. You can best maintain these by knowing that the path to reaching them may change, but that doesn’t mean you have to change your goals.
7. Count your blessings. Take some time to remember your accomplishments and what you still have. Pat yourself on the back because you’ve done a lot with your life.
8. Keep a positive attitude. Look at change as an opportunity. You’ll learn new stuff, do new activities, and when you’re experiencing new things – you are opening new channels of thought in your brain. You’re creating new electrical connections between your brain cells. You’ll have more information with which to be creative. All the while stimulating the dopamine receptors in your brain which make you feel good.
9. Live in the now. When you live in the present and focus on what you can do right now, you can’t at the same time dwell on the past or freak out about the future. Thinking about the past – what was lost – leads to depression. Thinking about the future – worrying about what might happen – leads to anxiety. Think only about what you need to do today and work on it, and you’ll get through and past your pain.
Life is full of surprises and unanticipated events, and it’s impossible to avoid them. Life is dynamic; it’s never static. But you can prepare somewhat for the unexpected.
For example, when making plans, plan for possible change; have an alternative action in mind — a “Plan B” in place. Better yet, become acclimated to the unexpected by being spontaneous whenever possible — make spur of the moment plans — and do something new that you’ve never done before.
Best of all, you can get mentally ready for change by introducing small, low-risk variety into your life on a regular basis. Here are some ideas:
• If you always drink coffee, drink tea instead for several days.
• If you always listen to pop music, listen to country, jazz, or classical music instead for a week or two.
• If you always watch conservative news programs, watch a liberal news program instead for a month.
• If you always eat the same foods, taste a new cuisine, or seasoning, or ethnic food each week for a year.
Getting in the habit of experiencing change enables you to adapt when the unexpected occurs. Get out there today and do something new!