Life can be a constant barrage of new and exciting experiences. Still even the most savvy and confident of us can get thrown off balance during the unexpected changes life throws our way.
My husband’s job means that we move—a lot. I dislike moving, but every time there is an opportunity to move through the pain and find a new sense of peace. There is nothing I could do, short of leaving my husband to change that we move often. But I love him, and almost all other elements of our lives are positives, so I work through the changes.
Not everyone is aware when a change has upset the balance in their lives. Often, super-confident people have no idea until they notice other signs of trouble. You may notice it as changes in your body or emotions.
- Feeling irritable and edgy with people you love
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Changing your eating habits
- Drinking more alcohol
- Feeling physical “aches” (headaches, backaches, stomachaches)
It’s difficult to relax and enjoy the incredible adventure of living when you’re feeling physically or emotionally off-kilter. However, if you’re willing to embrace change and be present to it, what you find on the other side may justify the discomfort. Sometimes happiness, peace, and a renewed sense of passion are just one messy transition away.
The process that I use with clients who are in the throes of a major life change puts the focus on staying connected to the body and taking small, actionable steps to move through the pain. Here are my suggested six steps:
1. Start Where You Are.
Simply acknowledging that what you are going through is difficult is the first step toward freedom. It may sound trite, but it’s common to resist acknowledging that anything is wrong, and believe we need to be superhuman. Draw on your community to find a safe place to talk about what is happening for you.
Deep change means grief. Many of us avoid grief like we would avoid the plague; but honestly, the only way out of it is through it. Make “crying dates” with yourself, if you need to. Spend an afternoon watching an emotional movie, or just spend 10 minutes of your day crying, if it helps you get the grief out. Get the grief out however you can.
3. Use Radical Self-Care.
With compassion and kindness, assess how you are taking care of yourself. Change what needs to be changed. Eat whole, nutritious foods. Exercise gently, in ways that feel nurturing for your body, and practice some form of meditation, be it yoga, Thai Chi or guided relaxation. Breathe deeply and frequently throughout each day.
Once you’ve grieved and are in the habit of taking care of your body, take a look at your thoughts about your life and the changes that have rocked your world. Notice any shoulds/can’ts/shouldn’ts in your language, and start questioning those thoughts.
“This shouldn’t have happened.” Really? Do you know that for sure? Maybe losing your job set the stage to pursue your dream; or moving to a new town opened up new possibilities for adventure.
“I can’t go out and meet new people.” Why not? What stops you? Or would it be more accurate to say, “I’m not ready to meet new people. Maybe next month I will be.”
Play with this. A good resource is The Work of Byron Katie. By diligently questioning the thoughts that cause pain, we free ourselves from suffering. What we realize is that believing our thoughts is a choice.
5. Set a New Course.
Possibilities are endless once you recognize your power to choose how you want to feel and live. By tuning into and taking care of your body, you now have an ally in discovering who, what, and how you want to be in the world.
Test it out. Think about something that you can’t stand doing—something that saps your energy and takes you away from the elements of your life that are most important to you. For me, house cleaning, ironing, and certain administrative roles fall into that category.
Note the sensations in your body—the tightness, the constriction and where it is located. Think of this as your -10 experience. Shake it off. Now think about something you love doing and note those sensations in your body—lightness, expansion, springy, maybe? Call this your +10 experience.
As you try new things, rate them on this scale to tune into how you really feel about it. If it’s on the -10 side of the scale, and you don’t absolutely have to do it, don’t! For example, I’ve outsourced the responsibilities I don’t enjoy so I can focus on writing, coaching, speaking, and taking care of myself.
Some change and discomfort is inevitable; but there’s no good reason to consistently bury your energy in things that feel negative to you. There’s a lot you can’t control in life—but you can make choices about where you spend your energy.
6. Check in with Your Happiness.
As you move forward, set aside time every day to appreciate everything that makes you insanely happy. A simple list of five things a day (more is even better) will help keep your energy focused on all the gifts in your life.
Happiness is available to us in each and every moment. By writing down your appreciation each day, and what motivates you to feel gratitude, you are choosing joy over sadness and you are rising above your pain.
Difficult transitions can inspire incredible self-discovery. When you embrace and work through the pain, you become a richer version of yourself, find a deeper sense of happiness, and feel a more authentic connection to your life.