Around Thanksgiving, many bloggers talk about gratitude: being thankful for what you have. Gratitude is a great practice when you are able to make peace with things the way they are. I want to talk to you about change. What do you do about all the things that should have happened, but didn’t? What do you do about things that should have never happened, but they did? How do you make peace with them, so that you can experience gratitude?
During the holidays we feel the changes in our lives especially keenly. Things are not the same they were last Thanksgiving, are they?
Last Thanksgiving, I couldn’t imagine that I would have the guts to blend my coaching & intuition practices into one, or publish a book about intuition. Last Thanksgiving, as bad as things were in NYC after Sandy, I couldn’t imagine Haiyan (Team Rubicon is doing a phenomenal job again providing disaster relief, please support them).
Since last Thanksgiving, houses have been built and destroyed, bought and sold; family members have died, and children were born; loved ones got ill and got well; jobs were lost and found.
Changes can cause stress, whether they are perceived as positive or negative. I know that each of us have had our share since last year.
So, what can you do when things change? Here are five strategies to reduce stress caused by changes that happen in our lives.
1. Breathe. It may sound silly and simplistic, I know. Still, if you just give yourself a minute to breathe and consciously focus on breathing, you will have a moment of peace. You will have one moment of being in the present, where you don’t have to argue with reality: you are breathing, and that’s real. Try it. Yes, now. Yes, literally: notice your breathing, and you’ll feel instantly your shoulders becoming less tense, and your heart rate slowing down. Just for one moment, be in the moment.
2. Don’t expect things to be the same. If you are really attached to the way things used to be, it must be frustrating for you to continue looking at the gap between “back then” and “ now”. Don’t look at that gap. Instead, look at what is, without judgment. If you are walking on a narrow bridge over a deep ravine, you wouldn’t want to look at the gap between your feet and the seemingly safe ground below your feet, right? To stay safe, you would need to look at your path. If you start stressing out about things not being the same, repeat to yourself without judgment: “This is the way things are now.” Notice a difference in your physical response when you say “Things are just not the same anymore!” and “This is the way things are now.”
3. Think whether your action/reaction is required. Just because things are not the way they used to be, does not mean that you are required to do something about it. You can look at an empty space, where someone used to sit, and just let it be. You can look at a space that is occupied by someone who didn’t used to be in that spot, and just let it be. Just observe. You don’t have to force the situation, to change it, or judge it. You don’t have to ruminate about it, raising your heart rate and blood pressure. Just see it, and let it be.
4. Take a risk. Act. Do something about the change when it makes you feel more like yourself. If your muscles tighten, your stomach feels like it should be emptied out, and you can hear your jaw clenching, in a new situation, you know you are in a wrong situation. What would you need to do in the momentin order to breathe deeper, and to feel like the weight is off your shoulders? Do something that will make you feel lighter, even though it may be risky. Coming out to your family is a risk. Saying “yes” is a risk.” Saying “no” is a risk. For me, putting my new book on intuition in front of my research-minded peers is a risk. What we really risk is feeling unloved. When your teeth grind together, and you have a lump in the pit of your stomach, you probably don’t feel loved anyway, so you might as well take a risk an act. Go out, if it feels better than staying in. Stay in, if it feels better than going out. Get your heart rate down, and you will deal with the rest later.
5. Act lovingly toward yourself. This sounds like a cliché, I know. During this holiday season, though, try to treat yourself like you would treat someone you genuinely love, like a good friend. Here’s one way to do it, as per entrepreneur James Altucher: “Only think about the people you enjoy. Only read the books you enjoy, that make you happy to be human. Only go to the events that actually make you laugh or fall in love. Only deal with the people who love you back, who are winners and want you to win too.” Do it to the extent that you can. Treat yourself lovingly.
Here are some posts on the subject of change that may be helpful if you are dealing with things not being the way they used to be:
What has changed for you since last Thanksgiving? I would LOVE to hear from you.