I know that change is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean that I like dealing with it!
The reality is that change is a regular part of my life, from little things which I barely notice, to major events which take me completely by surprise. I generally just ride it out, but occasionally I come up against something which leaves me feeling resistant, anxious, or even angry.
To truly thrive, we need to embrace change and do our best to see it in a positive light. Not all change is negative, and in fact may signal the start of something new or exciting. It is how we chose to view it which counts.
I think that the fluctuations in my long-term health condition have helped to make me more accepting of change, not only in my health but in other areas of my life.
The last few years have felt a little like bumping from one set-back to the next, and yet by taking control of my mindset and thought process I have been able to remain resilient and strong.
At times it hasn’t been easy, but I acknowledge that being resentful about those forced adjustments does not change the fact that they have happened, but simply robs me of my ability to move forwards.
There is a well-known prayer, ‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’
It can be hard to embrace change, and the life challenges which often come along with it. The chances are that we all like our lives as they are now, or at the least we are comfortable with our day-to-day existence. We all build an identity for ourselves and a persona which reinforces how we want to be seen and heard.
What happens when a big part of this is taken away?
Dramatic changes in our work, health, home life, relationships and family can knock us completely off track and leave us questioning our values, beliefs and future.
I find that a change in health can be particularly difficult, as very often these things don’t just get resolved after a certain amount of time. From medications, to surgeries, to scars, to restrictions, the reminders are often daily and ongoing.
Of course, people are faced with new medical challenges every day, but when we live with a life-long condition there can be a seeming inevitability to that change – it is not a question of if, but when!
There can be a feeling of lack of control, as unexpected problems can hit us out of the blue. Even if things have been stable for many years, there is always a recognition that some new obstacle may be just around the corner. It can be hard not to overly dwell on that possibility.
Loss versus opportunity
When things do arise, all too often it is a process of loss; loss of independence, loss of ability, loss of part of our identity and how we want to fit into the world, loss of our plans for the future, and a loss of control.
Yet, within that loss comes opportunity, and the chance to evaluate where we are, assess our goals, and define a new plan. Psychotherapists and councillors call it ‘finding a new narrative’ and it is a big part of the process of growth after adversity.
I have had to deal with a lot of change in the last few months, both in my health and by default in many other areas of my life.
Ironically, it was just as I was getting back on my feet, both figuratively and literally, that the full extent of its ramifications became apparent.
Firstly, I am not the person I was before in my physical capacity, and to someone previously so active that it very frustrating. I have been left with some lingering problems which are holding me back and making it hard to re-establish a good fitness routine. I am scared that this is my new normal, but at the same time trying to remain optimistic that things will settle and I will feel better.
Secondly, my time in hospital allowed for a serious re-evaluation of my life and goals, with the realisation that I have been very much living only for my business, and not truly making the most of my remaining time.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love my work and clients, but taking care of them wasn’t leaving me with enough energy or time to explore the other things in life which I wanted to achieve.
During my hospitalisation, I had already made the reluctant decision to close the fitness part of my business to focus only on providing classes for the over 55’s, particularly those with long-term health conditions. Ironically, I think that ‘cosmos’ heard me thinking, and decided to make carrying on as before an impossibility anyway. It’s funny how that can happen.
I am not an absolute believer in the premise of the book ‘The Secret’ by Rhonda Byrne (if you haven’t read it then you really should), but there is a good element of truth in the concept that the mind does create in reality what we choose to think about.
There I was, a few days away from getting back to running my classes, when my landlord called me to suggest that it was time for me to move out of my premises. I had a lease until February next year, but have accrued a bunch of debts, exacerbated by not earning anything for nearly three months whilst in hospital. Upsetting as it was, it wasn’t an unreasonable request.
I didn’t have a leg to stand on or the finances to put up a fight, and either way I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. It was time to move on.
Change is hard
Change is hard and I have been left mourning the loss of my studio, something which I have invested the last five years in building up. But there is no point in dwelling on the negatives of the situation. It has happened and the only logical thing is to deal with it.
The upshot is that I moved out on Sunday 13th, and with the help of the lovely owners have managed to find a new (hopefully permanent) home at Morgan’s Wellbeing at the other end of my old building. At long last we have a bright and airy ground-floor studio, something which I have been dreaming about for many years.
It is not mine full-time, and we are having to work between an existing morning and evening timetable, but in terms of client experience it is ideal. The change is like another new start, and I am determined to make the most of it.
I have been focussing my mind on the benefits, and that has gone a long way to heal my sadness. Yet again I have had to use a lot of my inner strength and mindset ninja tricks to not get depressed or angry that life has thrown this new obstacle in my path.
So, what are my top three tips for dealing with change?
- Acknowledge what you have lost, but don’t overly dwell on it or beat yourself up. What has happened has happened, and unless there is a realistic chance that you can undo the situation, the only thing to do is to accept it and move on.
- Flip the switch. Instead of being overly focussed on what you have lost, find at least three things which you have gained. When I was in hospital, I went through a period when I was really struggling with my confinement, the loss of independence, and the realisation that my life was going to change. I knew that I could let these thoughts drag me down and make me miserable, or I could decide to make the most of my situation. I built my own daily routine of exercise, personal care, study, journaling and deliberate reflection, social time, and a host of little rituals to keep me sane and feeling productive. It turned out to be the most wonderful opportunity – I came out at the end of a few months, healthier, happier and wiser than I anticipated. Not only did I have a clear plan for my future, but a book structure defined and several chapters written, three on-line courses completed, and a real appreciation for the fragility of life and how fortunate I had been. Nearly 5 months on from when the saga started, I am undoubtedly an even stronger and more resilient person than I was before.
- Accept that this is not the last big challenge or change which you will have to deal with. That doesn’t mean that we must live a life of fear or worry, but instead should realise that we have come this far and are stronger than we think. Rather like the process of getting fitter, I see every obstacle which I have successfully surmounted as having built my resilience ‘muscle’. I know that I am now far better equipped to deal with unexpected problems in my future than those in the general population who have not had to face similar significant challenges. I am confident that no matter what comes my way, I will ultimately be able to bounce back. Realising that takes away a lot of my fear.
There you have it. I wouldn’t say that I have all the answers to dealing with change and the uncertainties of life, but I have certainly taught myself to deal with it far better than I would have done in my 20’s or even 30’s. My life experiences have given me the tools and strength of character to more easily accept change, to find benefit in it, and hopefully to grow as a result. Looking back at your own journey, can you say the same?