Most of us are familiar with the saying “Change is the only constant in life” - and as much as we might embrace this statement, change is still something people struggle with. Nervousness, overwhelm, and fear are emotions that I experience quite often during periods of change in my life. So much so that the word ‘change’ has become synonymous with negative emotions and experiences. Having dealt with the unpredictability of this past year and the continuous curveballs that are being thrown my way, I needed tools in place to help me cope. So, it felt serendipitous when I had the opportunity to gather in Inner Villij with other women of colour. The conversation was guided by psychotherapist, Natasha Reynolds, and we engaged in a conversation around how to cope with and welcome change.
So why is change so hard? Natasha tells us that often, our bodies can perceive a change in circumstance as a threat. This kicks our nervous system into fight or flight mode and can result in intense feelings of panic/fear or resistance. Fear is like our internal alarm system, designed to keep us safe in moments of perceived danger. Natasha suggests that a few mindset shifts can help to ease the tension we may feel when navigating change.
We can adjust how we perceive change by framing the experience as more positive, where change is something we welcome. Natasha describes this as “harvesting the good”, while change can be difficult or even painful in some situations, it typically brings with it a lesson. Adopting this mindset allows us to begin seeing the potentially good things that might be birthed from the tension. Once we start getting intentional about our thoughts, we can begin to change the narrative that arises when we feel out of control.
We can adjust how we perceive change by framing the experience as more positive, where change is something we welcome.
Natasha reminds us that this is an excellent time to recognize our resources. Listing what we have available to us at the moment that can assist or help us adapt during periods of change. “Avoid telling yourself that you are not equipped,” she says, and list the things you may need to cope with change. Community/support, reassurance, and time alone are a few ways our community copes with the fear or anxiety they feel during these times. It is also helpful in times of change to remind ourselves of previous experiences with fear and how we overcame it. Tapping into our resilience reminds us that we can overcome and that we are not as powerless as we might think.
Our Psychotherapist, Natasha left us with a few powerful tips to assist with shifting our perspective and welcoming change;
- Journalling: This is a great tool to identify what emotions are coming up for you and to begin changing the narrative we tell ourselves. Try these journaling prompts the next time you are in a period of change:
- What are the possibilities? What might the positive outcomes of this situation be?
- When was the last time I experienced this? How did I overcome it?
- In what ways will I grow from this experience? What will be the pay over as a result of me trusting this change?
- Deep Breaths: We now know that in periods of unrest or anxiety, our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated and floods our bodies with adrenaline. This could look like an elevated heart rate or increase in blood pressure, this is also not the ideal time for decision making. Deep breaths allow us to slow down our heart rate and tap into the parasympathetic nervous system. Now would be an excellent time to use one of the journaling prompts listed above.
- The Pause: If journaling does not feel instinctive for you; practicing taking a pause is another way to begin shifting your mindset. The idea is to stop before reacting by taking some time to think about what is happening at that moment. You could tune in to what is occurring physically in your body, what emotions are arising, and what story the mind is telling you. The pause much like journaling and deep breathing simply allows us to take notice of what is.
As difficult as change might be, it does not need to be unbearable or something we actively avoid. There are ways to cope with and welcome periods of change in our lives. Starting by recognizing what we say to ourselves and choosing to support ourselves in the same way we might support a friend. Get familiar with what you need to cope, and understand that on the other side of change is possibility and growth. Lastly, knowing that you do not have to do it alone - connect with a community of people that can support you through moments of change. You’ve got this!
Join Inner Villij today and become part of a supportive community of BIPOC women.
Read this article for tips on coping with anxiety