Full disclosure – I’m new here. Not here to Bluffton, but here to this practice. It’s been almost two months now, and I’m starting to settle in. As someone who has previously been on their own as a counselor, joining an established practice was a big change. Would I fit in? Would the clients relate to me? Would the other counselors accept me?
While these thoughts may be typical of anyone starting a new job, it got me thinking of how people manage changes in their lives, and how we can help them. Some people thrive on constant change, and others find it anxiety producing. I have seen friends, family members and clients alternately paralyzed with anxiety by changes, or embracing it as a new phase in their lives.
Most people can agree that too many changes at once can be overwhelming. We’ve all heard about the Big Three – a move, a job change and a marriage all at once. For some people however, any one of those changes can be enough to cause anxiety. So how can we manage life changes, particularly for those who don’t embrace it?
We can start by asking ourselves if the change is necessary, and will it be good for us down the road? If so, we can focus on the positivity of that change and all it will bring.
Very often, it is the unknown factor of changes that are anxiety producing, and we wonder and worry about how they will affect our lives. Some changes bring us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes we can reframe the situation to focus on the positive aspects of the change, such as uncovering hidden strengths, the potential for new experiences, and the like.
For example, last year I took a trip to Costa Rica, where I had never been, for a yoga retreat which I had never done, with five days of vegan food, which I had never solely eaten, as I am not a vegan. Until a friend finally agreed to go with me, I also would not have known anyone else on the trip. I took a chance, and it paid off. I learned that I enjoyed yoga even more than I thought I did, I explored a new place, made new friends, and learned that I could eat as a vegan if necessary! The point is that I tried to make a change by trying something new and discovered all sorts of things about myself I wouldn’t have otherwise known.
We can remind ourselves that it is OK to have an adjustment period, that it is OK to need time to finish one change before moving on to another. We also may need to be reminded that taking time for some good old self care is OK as well. Perhaps taking an extra yoga or exercise class, sitting down for an hour to watch a favorite show, taking a walk with the dog, sitting down and reading a book, or whatever works for each of us.
Of course many changes are necessary, not all can wait, and not all are our own choices, but it is how we handle them that is important. Taking time to reflect on them, and accept how we feel about them, is an often overlooked aspect of managing life changes.
Written by: Kristen Pagulayan
In an age where technology is supposed to bring us closer together through social media, cell phones, and video conferencing, how is it that we have never been further apart? We are the loneliest, most medicated generation that this country has seen. We are slowly losing our ability to empathize with others and as a result we are losing our humanity.
We are bombarded daily with news stories of people taking lives as if it were a game. As a result, we are increasingly finding ourselves in a position to protect ourselves from perceived imaginary enemies. The constant presence of social media fills every minute of our days. We have become so “busy” that actually talking with others has nearly ceased to exist. This goes against our nature and what we need as human beings. All of us need our community, our “tribe”.
Community with others is essential, because there we will find our rhythm and heal wounds that we never thought possible on our own. So, maybe next time you’re waiting in a line try starting a conversation with someone. See where it takes you and how it can impact your day and your mood. It’s when we get out of our heads and into relations with others that the weight and fog lifts and the burden begins to feel manageable again. This is why counseling and support groups work. It is in the healing relationships with others that we can begin to heal ourselves. So I encourage you to find your tribe. Get yourself out there and try something new.
We all have strategies and coping mechanisms for handling life’s challenges. Sometimes our methods are on the healthy side like exercise or journaling. But sometimes, those strategies we regularly use simply don’t work effectively. Examples of this would be having an angry outburst to manage frustration or playing negative events over and over in the mind. The support of counseling can provide a boost to positive strategies and a reworking of the negative ones.
But the reasons to not seek counseling help are endless. Here’s what some of them might sound like:
Only crazy people go to counseling. I don’t want anyone to know how bad my life really is. This situation is hopeless; there is nothing I can do. I can manage without anyone’s help. My symptoms aren’t that bad. This is just the way I am. Why bother, nothing will change anyway. How can talking to someone help anything? I don’t want anyone to know I can’t handle my problems! I’m managing well enough. I’ve read all the self-help books already.
Or maybe the truth is…. the process of counseling seems scary. Realizing that change requires addressing what isn’t working and moving through emotional pain can feel impossible and terrifying.
In counseling we find, time and time again, the power of connection with another to be the way change finally begins to take root and blossom. Human beings are social creatures and when we find therapeutic connection with another, we begin to find solutions to what previously seemed impossible. Counseling is a different experience from talking with a friend or loved one. Counseling involves a trained professional who challenges what isn’t working to make room for what will. Whatever the reason, there are some real benefits people often report after having counseling.
You move through and find perspective for negative emotions
Therapy provides a safe place to work through negative responses to both the large, life-altering events as well as the chronic, small repetitive events. Learning how to gain a new perspective or to alter a typical response can be liberating. Imagine being able to participate in your most dreaded life requirements minus the negative feelings. Shifting your own perspectives changes you and then the details of life don’t have to change.
You find a solution to a problem
How often do we think we need to decide between A and B, but we don’t really want either option? Counseling can help to dissect a problem and find possible solutions that you haven’t been able to see. Being able to see the situation from a broader perspective can often make moving forward much easier.
You find a increase in general life satisfaction
As you begin to change self-defeating patterns or optimizing positive ones, the natural bi-product is an overall increase in happiness and life satisfaction. Relationships become more satisfying and being comfortable in the world and inside your own head becomes a daily reality.
Improved overall wellness
Research continues to support improved physical health when mental health improves. Depression, anxiety, chronic stress and trauma are well documented as causes of high blood pressure, gastrointestinal distress, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia, muscle pain and more. When we uncover and release emotional pain, we allow the body to relax and repair.
Psychotherapy increases life success
Counseling actually rewires the brain. Brain mapping studies demonstrate that after counseling multiple areas of the brain are firing in different, and more effective, ways. This remapping helps to prepare you for future curve balls life might throw as well as to be able to optimize your every day.
What are you waiting for?