How well do you handle change?
In life, change is inevitable. How we handle it determines how smooth the ride will be. I, for one, have not been stellar at handling change. Those around me may or may not have noticed but, let me tell you, I am a person who likes every day to come off without a hitch. I am a preparer and a planner. I love schedules that work out well and want everything on my to-do list neatly checked off at the end of the day.
The younger-me did not do well with the unexpected at all. Even small changes stressed me out! It showed on my face. Tension was everywhere. Even a friendly phone call coming in “at the wrong time” was a problem. Oh, I was polite about it but inside my toe was tapping as I heard the imaginary time-clock ticking away. There was no wiggle-room in my day and change set off a ripple of unwelcome adjustments I did not want to have. Makes it hard to have meaningful relationships when you live like that!
Today I am happy to report that things are different. I have changed. The greatest lesson I have learned is that we can have joy in our hearts no matter what is going on in our lives. “This too will pass” has become my motto. Even if the day or the week or the year isn’t going the way I want it to, God’s mercies are new every morning. He has it all under control and I don’t want to miss my opportunity to enjoy what THIS day has for me. Stress is a joy-robber every time.
“So, great.” you say. “She’s learned how to handle an unexpected phone call.” But what about the big stuff?”
Perhaps the “big stuff” is what has trained me to consider little breaks in the flow of life to be nothing at all. They are just a mere blip on the screen.
Small stuff = little interruptions that can interfere with your day-to-day rhythm such as your son’s little league baseball game getting rained out or the dog throwing up on the floor.
Big stuff = events that introduce change that is unavoidable, life-altering and long-lasting such as violent weather destroying your home, you or your spouse losing a job, old-age or illness in the family putting strong demands on your time/money, and the ultimate intruder – death.
Even GOOD things can bring huge change, like winning the lottery! Becoming an overnight millionaire produces a stress that few of us will ever experience. “I think I’d like to try that one” you say. Ask someone who has done it. They might offer to trade places with you.
Big or little, there are HABITS we can put in place now that will make life go more smoothly when change arrives:
1. Quickly assess your situation. You need to establish internal peace. Ask yourself some questions like “is this the end of the world?” Most of the time the answer is “no.” Even if it is the worst of the worst, you are still here. Somebody probably needs you. Can you bring help? Can you bring comfort? Is there something you can do? Then, do it. If not, recognize that you have not failed – there truly is nothing you can do.
2. Talk to yourself. Think about what you can be thankful for. Has this change required that you become someone’s chauffeur? You can be glad you have a car to use for that purpose. And when you are driving them around, are you going to be the comfort they need to get through a tough time? Be glad you are there for them.
Take this talking to yourself strategy further and talk to God. I do. Why waste time? I know that He can help me where no one else can. So I go straight to the top and pray – and He answers, bigtime.
3. Enlist help. Take-charge people often try to tackle problems on their own. They accumulate responsibilities as if there were no other options. Perhaps there are little things someone else can do for you that will free you up to deal with the issue at hand? Just ask.
4. Adjust plans. What can you delete from your schedule? If you are a tiny bit of a perfectionist (or a hugemongous one) this may not occur to you right away. I have a dear friend who used to vacuum her carpets twice a day. I think it was therapeutic for her. That’s fine if it fits but, horrors, some of those tasks may have to be done less frequently during a troublesome time. Letting someone else do it may not be within your comfort zone or even on the radar. Train yourself. When a friend says “how can I help?” have an answer. Say “vacuum my rugs!” if that’s what you need. Wouldn’t you do it for them? Bet you would.
5. Know that nothing is forever. Circumstances are subject to change. Consider the current one to be a test – a test to find out who you are on the inside. If you fail it the first time around, no biggie. You’ll pass the next one.
What changes have taken you by surprise?
How have you handled them?
What have you learned?
Tell us your story.
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