Change: Inevitable & Survivable

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Jody Pierce, LCSW

Change can be difficult. At Pennock Center for Counseling we often see clients in an emotional crisis that is provoked by some kind of change in their lives:  unexpected, painful or unwanted. We all can have difficulty in coping, even with positive changes. When you experience profound grief after the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, or the loss of a spouse to divorce, you may feel devastated. After a crisis or loss, you are left to cope with the aftermath. You are better able to cope, even the most painful changes, if you have and use both internal and external resources. Resilience is another word for your ability to cope; the ability to bounce back, recover and move beyond an event, change or crisis. Positive changes also create stress and difficulty, because any change requires adjustment and your life feels unpredictable.

May has been declared Mental Health Month by the Mental Health Association of Colorado with the goal of educating Colorado residents about mental health issues and working towards taking the stigma away from getting mental health help. This is the first of a series of articles on mental health issues and treatment.

Resilience can be learned. When you hear the word “change” how do you feel?  Most of us feel fearful, anxious and uncomfortable. Change, however, is a part of life. It is unavoidable. Yet our natural tendency is to resist change, and to become stressed or overwhelmed; yet you can learn to be more resilient and even to grow from the experience of change. Resilience can be learned and with practice you will cope better with the inevitable changes and the accompanying stress.

You can bounce back. Highly resilient people know how to bounce back, and to make things turn out well. They recognize that things will always change; and they prepare for the changes. They accept the losses that occur with change and find the benefits of the change — they focus on the benefits rather than on the losses. Here is a list of characteristics of highly resilient people. Use it to determine your own level of resilience and to pick an area or two (at most) to work on. Improvement in your resilience will allow you to be more productive, flexible and to get through life easier.

Qualities that increase our resiliency:

  • Playful, childlike curiosity and humor. The ability to be playful and use our humor helps us cope.
  • Ability to learn from experience. Focusing on the lesson learned turns change into something positive and growth producing.
  • Flexibility. The ability to be flexible and adaptable is a vital part of resiliency.
  • Solid self-esteem and self-confidence. Feeling good about ourselves and feeling confident helps us get through changes.
  • Good friends and loving relationships. Talking with friends and family lessens the effects of difficult times and changes.
  • Expecting things to work out well. Optimism and a high tolerance for uncertainty help us transform a more difficult change into a positive experience of change — attitude makes all the difference!
  • Good self-care. Taking care of ourselves through good nutrition, adequate sleep and exercise; getting support from others, and enjoying leisure activities all help in coping more effectively.
  • Accepting losses. Recognizing and accepting the losses that come with change help us move through the change.
  • Strong support systems. Highly resilient people don’t seek to do it all on their own, but have and use a personal support system.  They also seek professional help if needed.

As you build your resilience, you’ll notice that even though change is still stressful, you’ll feel better and adjust more quickly and easily with these skills in place. With difficult losses and changes, professional counseling can be an important resource as well.

View change as an opportunity. Change is an opportunity for personal growth; it can help you learn more about yourself. Change is inevitable, with resilience it does not have to be dreaded and resisted, but can be accepted as a part of life and an opportunity to grow.