How Are You Resisting Change?

Nobody likes Change. Period.

I’m pretty good with change. I think. But when I really, really think about it, I see that I’m pretty good with change that I initiate. Move the furniture, shift my eating habits, start a new exercise routine, buy and wear new glasses…all good! But what about the other stuff that makes up most of life? You know, the real stuff of life: anything from the tiny ‘papercuts’ we endure… those incessant schedule changes, delays in flights departures, or wacky changing weather patterns, to the more profound changes of loved ones changing ~ any part of growing up, moving away, dying. Maybe, for better or worse, someone enters your work or personal life who you didn’t see coming. In these cases, how do you move with, or against, the changes? Most of us are going to resist changechange is inevitable but we humans aren’t really wired for it. Resistance, however, is what causes most of us the most anxiety and stress. We, in whatever our style is, attempt to protect ourselves, attempt to control change, and life.

What’s Your Style of Dealing with Change?

I know from my own experience, and from that of my clients, friends, and family, that there’s a persistent blind spot in all of us when it comes to change. I know some people who simply always start with no when it comes to the slightest sight of change. Sometimes I kind of envy the yes or no/ black and white kind of response; someone sees something they don’t want to do and they just shut down. They just won’t budge. What’s the outcome of an approach like that? Depending on how the dynamics with others are, this can be an accepted push/pull experience. The resistance is obvious to everyone. Anxiety is behind the whole response, for sure. This is a coping mechanism and there’s a lot of discomfort here. Eventually something or someone has to give. This can take years and then there’s an explosion of change, or there can be take a big push back, and then sudden shift. A zero-sum game ends in a loss somewhere along the line. Is this your style?

Perhaps you’re the person who, seeing change coming, works to be sure that everyone else is comfortable and happy. You keep a positive outlook, attempt to flex with the change, and maybe push your own concerns down…maybe way down. Good natured, you listen for commonalities with others and look for the win in the change. Maybe you put on a good game face and have lots of conversations with yourself, and maybe a few others in private, attempting to hang in like the good team player you are. How is this working for you? Personally, I can relate to this one…and I see it as a positive approach to change. I know, also, that there’s a downside here. Adapting in this way can also mean potentially overriding your own experience and needs. Not processing and owning the understandable emotions in the change, swallowing a lot of pain in the process. Sometimes this approach means a delay in feeling (or knowing what you’re feeling) and then delaying taking the actions that serve you. Maybe this approach is just right. Is it? For you?

Try These Strategies for Effective Change

Here are a few tips to assimilate change in a healthy way:

  1. Take some time, with intention, to consider the changes you’re experiencing in your life to notice what style of ‘dealing’ you’re employing. Either sit down with a journal, or you might go for a walk to just think this through. I know some of you aren’t ‘journalers’, but you might take some notes to record and really see where you are with the changes you’re experiencing. I find a long walk can be a great way to process and get new insights, and even take a little notebook with along to capture my thoughts.
  • Lighten and loosen up – in order to free yourself up mentally and physically, stretch out the muscles that may have contracted with the changes in your life. Get a good massage or lay on a bolster or yoga block to open up your chest. Notice how tight or open you are. See what emotions come to the surface as you unwind. Remember that change is inevitable. Resistance to change creates more stress, more pain, than the change itself. When we try to keep things as they were, or insist they be the way we want them to be, we are essentially arguing with reality. Letting go can help us adapt, or know what changes we need to initiate as a result of the other changes occurring.
  • Practice noticing your thoughts. Carving out a little quiet time to practice noticing and then letting go, by returning to sounds in your environment, or to feeling your breath, can create some needed mental space. Thoughts can be so quiet, so insidious; they’re running in the ‘background’, running our ‘show’, instead of us consciously choosing how we want to be. Noticing these thoughts, and allowing instead of suppressing them, is how we can work with them; we can see the choices we have.
  • Make a list of what’s most important to you. Knowing what your WHY is in any situation can help you change your perspective about the situation, and help you determine how you want to behave in it. You’ll see the actions you want, or don’t want, to take based on this information.
  • Be kind. This may be the hardest strategy of all, but it’s really the most important. We are all so tough on ourselves; when faced with change (even positive change!) our insidious negative self-talk can be absolutely cruel with ‘what-ifs’ and ‘how could I haves’. Giving yourself encouragement by remembering the times you’ve handled changes well, forgiving yourself for something you feel you didn’t handle well, looking at the qualities you appreciate about yourself – these will soften the tough inner speak, and allow you to see new options for working with the change ahead.

Being human is intense. Sometimes life is a bumpy ride. And then it smooths out. All things change. Knowing your style of riding the bumps can provide valuable insight, and clarity, for how best to proceed.