How to Positively Respond to Change
By: Lisa Card Strong, Ph.D. | September 2, 2022
Our society is changing in cavernous ways. I never expected a pandemic combined with such significant political and social unrest. I am shocked and profoundly saddened by the horrible rebounds and backward motion for women’s rights and LBGTQ+, Black, and minority communities. I am shaking in my boots from it all. Okay, I’m not wearing boots, I’m wearing sandals – we’re in San Diego, after all! Life around me is unrecognizable and sometimes it feels like I am living in the show, The Walking Dead.
I am shocked about how much has changed since the pandemic. A lot has happened in my personal life that further exacerbates the sense of “unrealness” that I feel around me. My daughter graduated from college and my son graduated from high school and started college. Their experiences of these important milestones in their lives are not what I dreamed for them. I know they are resilient, and yet sadness and disappointment pulse through my body for them still.
Responding to Change
My “Walking Dead moments” remind me of the book ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Spencer Johnson. The book is a story about a group of mice who experience change in their work environment. In the book, a mouse named Scurry moves quickly forward with a new job but doesn’t gather all of his potential rewards in the process. Another mouse named Hem is reluctant to make change, even when the writing is on the wall that his job will change in a way that doesn’t work for him. A third mouse, named Haw, mindfully observes the changes to his situation so he can prepare, adjust, and respond in a more calm and focused manner. Like the mice in the book, we must find ways to respond to the sudden changes and shifts in our society.
We cannot predict the future, but we can change how we respond today.
Research shows that those with rigid thinking and low tolerance for uncertainty are more prone to lower mood and anxiety. As such, working to develop our “muscles” of tolerance for the unknown can improve our quality of life.
The following tips will help you respond positively to change:
1. Be Aware of Your Thinking Patterns
Thinking ahead can sometimes help us anticipate future circumstances and prepare for these new experiences. However, when thinking ahead turns into persistent worry and preoccupation, we aren’t really making progress to prepare ourselves. Rather, we are just spinning in a circle! Be aware of how much time you spend thinking about the future, and the results of this mental effort. Does thinking ahead lead to productive change, or does it cause you physical and emotional stress?
2. Be Productive
Thinking about the worst things that can happen (referred to as catastrophic thinking) doesn’t change anything. To avoid this pattern of thinking, focus your mental efforts on things that you can actually do to improve your situation. Ask yourself what you can do to improve your life in this very moment. Sometimes the best thing you can do to prepare for the future is to take care of yourself now. This way, you will be in the best shape possible to handle whatever lies ahead.
3. Learn to Tolerate Distress
Change is hard for most of us, and a degree of stress experienced through a change is unavoidable. Rather than fearing this discomfort, embrace it! To do this, practice compassion for yourself when you are in pain, and remember that you are not alone in this experience. Use relaxation exercises to reduce physical stress. When your body is relaxed, it sends a signal to your brain that it is safe to quiet your mind. In these uncertain times, it is Okay Not To Be Okay.
If you are struggling to respond to the changes in our society, or in your personal life in a positive way, consider meeting with a professional San Diego Psychologist. Your therapist will help you develop the tools and strategies you need to be productive in your thinking and use action-oriented techniques to steer away from negative, worst-case-scenario thinking patterns.
Contact Us today to learn more about how therapy can help. A talented member of our team is here to provide you with the focused guidance you need most – when going it alone can feel overwhelming and hopeless. You don’t have to face change alone.