Handling Change Mindfully
"Change is the only constant in life." ~ Heraclitus of Ephesus
Everything changes all of the time, but don’t you sometimes wish you could take a pause? Just a little reprieve to catch your breath? I’m going through that, again, right now. I’m pretty comfortable with change, but it goes hand in hand with increased busyness and that’s what I’m struggling with at the moment.
When I launched my company back in 2012, I thought my main focus would be writing. So I created everything – my company name, website, social media, etc., as my name. That seemed like the best marketing strategy for an author. But then everything changed just a few months later and I ended up branching out into coaching, tapping, workshops, conference presentations, podcasts, blogs, a certification program and more. And I was so busy, I couldn’t really take the time to strategize about things like my website. I simply added another website to address one area of my work, which was tapping. I added email addresses to meet the needs of various programs I was conducting. Pretty soon, I had 8 email addresses, 2 websites, multiple hashtags and nothing tied all of them together. The worst part for me was that most everything was named my name. Don’t get me wrong, I like my name just fine, but as I added staff to the mix and had more people asking me for the name of my company, it was starting to look very narcissistic and that was never my intention!
On top of that, it was getting hard to manage. Which website, Instagram or email were we to use for what? And adding the Spanish version of the podcast had unexpected challenges, as the English and Spanish versions get jumbled together in I-Tunes, so I had English speakers asking me why I had switched to Spanish and vice versa. I had created a little bit of a mess. So, not being shy of change, I decided a couple of weeks ago to fix the whole thing. One website, one email, one # for people to follow, and two separate podcasts. Bless my social media manager, as of course, lots of work fell to her, but I had a lot to do, too. State filings, federal filings, new logo, new letterhead, new checks, new swag. Lots of change!
We humans are quite funny about change. As I mentioned, I usually like change, but I am not in the majority. Most people state they don’t like change, but that’s not really true. People choose to change all of the time. We go to college or move or get married or decide to have children. Those are all major life changes and people decide to make those changes quite frequently. Changing the name of my company was a choice I made and my discomfort isn’t with the change. I’m actually quite excited about it. My discomfort is in the tons of extra work it created during a very busy time of the year. But I chose this change, and that is more palatable to our brains than having change thrust upon us.
What most people don’t like is change they have no control over. A new boss, a company restructure, losing an apartment, an employee quitting, illness, being transferred to another state, an unexpected break-up or divorce – the list is long. I just finished doing my taxes and was not happy at all with all of the changes, which required I read hundreds of pages of nonsensical instructions. It’s very frustrating when change is thrust upon us, as it not only causes extra work or effort, but usually induces a sense of anxiety. We knew what we were doing before and we knew pretty much what to expect. Now we don’t. That hits our insecurity button.
Security is a universal need that we all have. If we feel secure and safe, we feel better equipped to handle our day-to-day lives, as we at least feel confident in the framework or structure if not the details of each day. When something changes, we’re thrown off our game.
To add insult to injury, the extra work and effort involved with many changes causes our natural instinct to rush or work harder to kick in. Now we’re anxious, stressed and probably rushing or panicking to some degree, which causes us to make mistakes or miss important information, further complicating our processing the change effectively. It can become a downward spiral quite quickly.
Mindfulness helps eliminate a lot of the chaos around change. It allows us to calm both our mind and body, allowing blood to flow freely, our brain to stay focused and our soul to remain calm. While it may seem counterintuitive to slow down when placed into a change situation, nothing could serve us better than to do just that.
Mindfulness is awareness on multiple levels. We can recognize that when it comes to change, our emotional mind frequently runs right over our rational mind. We’re not that great at choosing long-term benefits over short-term gains. If you’ve ever tried to diet, you know what I mean. An ice-cream cone now or release 10 pounds in the next few months? Most go for the cone. And we’re not only wired to want everything right now, we’re also wired to avoid any discomfort - at almost any cost.
Mindfulness cultivates not only a calmness in dealing with change, but increases our resiliency, helping us to better manage temporary discomfort. As we focus on the present, the worry and story-telling that we typically conjure up happens less frequently or with less intensity. You know what I mean, right? You hear that your
company may shut down and the story-telling starts immediately. There are no jobs… and how will I pay my rent? And what about my health insurance… and what if… Or, I can’t believe they changed the tax system and now I don’t know what I’m doing, so what if I screw it up or get in trouble because I make mistakes? Or what if I owe more now because of the changes… We think these stories up before anything has even happened, which only creates more stress, which leads to more story-telling. And of course, the stories are always scary!
Mindfulness and meditation are great counteractive methods to these situations. We pause, notice what’s happening right in this moment, and breathe. Mindfulness encourages us to pay attention to our feelings and provide an opportunity to explore the emotions as they arise. We can question ourselves as to why we might be feeling these emotions. We can step out of the anxiety, breathe, focus on what we’re grateful for, and remind ourselves that we don’t know what the change may bring, but that we’re still fine. Right here, right now, there’s nothing wrong.
Because a mindful meditation practice increases our resiliency even at a physical level due to the changes that take place in the brain, we become better equipped at handling life’s curveballs the longer we practice.
It is because I practice mindfulness that I can quickly notice that I’m not struggling with the changes I’m in the midst of, but with the added work. Mindfulness gives us clarity and focus. I can easily see that I chose to make the changes, I am actually looking forward to the changes, and I am uncomfortable with the added workload, but also know that it will pass. As we hit each bump in the road, instead of anxiety or dread, I simply take a deep breath and remember that I am fine, and it will work out one way or another, even if I do nothing. That gives me the space to do something - instead of freezing in panic or hiding under my covers each morning.
As for change I don’t have control over, like my taxes, my resiliency from mindfulness helps there, too. I owe a lot more money than I thought I would. As I felt the anxiety rise as I calculated the numbers, and the story-telling tried to start in my brain about all of the catastrophes that could now happen because of my depleting funds, I had to put in very little effort for gratitude to kick in. I in fact don’t owe more in taxes because of all of the changes to the tax code. I owe more money because my company did better last year. That’s something to be grateful for! I can honestly say that pre-mindfulness, I would have been upset or depressed, but that just didn’t happen. I felt joy for this in-my-face reminder that my company is growing. And of course, it’s changing. But change doesn’t have to be a precursor to disaster, even if in our own minds. Everything changes all of the time. We can learn to handle it with grace and ease, whether we instigated it, or whether someone else provided us with the opportunity to increase our resiliency, anchored in the practice of mindfulness and meditation.
Are you going through any uncomfortable changes right now? Take the time to sit quietly and notice your emotions. Notice how your body feels. Where are you holding the stress? Can you focus on that area and release the tension?
Change happens. It is an inherent and consistent part of life. But we can learn how to roll with the constant changes in life, to remember that we’re still who we are, despite the changes happening around us. We can learn to embrace change and recognize that we’re okay, regardless of outside circumstances. We can thrive.