How you can become better at welcoming change
By Stacy Irvine
These last few years have taught us many new things. As we worked through numerous emotional challenges and frustrations, we hopefully learned a bit more about ourselves and how we handle change. As a business owner, a media spokesperson, and a parent of three teenagers I often felt as though the world was constantly shifting. Just when I figured out a new way to work through various restrictions and lockdowns, the rules changed, and I was forced to find yet another way to get things done. Sometimes when we are subjected to many changes in a short period of time, we are forced to adapt in ways that can increase our stress levels, or at the very least make us feel uncomfortable.
This type of quick change played out in real life for me during a recent international trip that began at Toronto’s Pearson Airport. I had heard all the nightmare stories about missed flights and excruciating long line ups. I was determined to make my flight as I began a multi-stop book tour. To say that my “fight or flight” instincts were on high alert would be an understatement. As I approached the terminal at 5:30am with literally hundreds of people lined up for security, I will admit that I was not completely honest with an Air Canada representative as I made my way through with minutes to spare before boarding a flight to Arizona. My heart was pounding, while I prayed to the airline gods not to pull me out of that line. I have never done that before. I hope I never have to do it again. But when forced into certain situations we adapt.
One of Charles Darwin’s most famous quotes reminds us. “It is not the strongest nor the most intelligent of the species that survives. But the one that is most adaptable to change.”
There is some good news within this idea. Science has demonstrated for centuries that we are able to change our behaviours and actions, and human beings can be great at adapting. Although we may sometimes find it stressful, we are designed to do this very thing. What I have noticed in my lifelong career as a health and wellness professional, is that some of us are better at this than others. As Darwin points out, being adaptable is essential to our survival. I would add that adapting is beneficial for our health. There are many times in our lives where we will be required to change because of life events around us that we cannot control.
A great example of this can be seen with professional athletes. Within our business at Totum Life Science, we have had the privilege of working with many types of elite and professional athletes, providing us a window into the challenges they face in their intense and dynamic career choice. There are few jobs where one day you and your family are settled in a city, when suddenly, a trade happens and you are asked to report to a new location with a new team within days. Because these athletes have designed a lifestyle that relies on optimal health and superhuman skills, they must become extremely adaptable to always perform at the highest levels. New environments, new places to live, shop, and sleep. New communities, friends, and co-workers. This group of exceptional athletes manage to pull it off, over and over again.
Maybe you do not fall into the category of an elite athlete, but I imagine that there have been times where you had to make significant changes in your life to survive and hopefully thrive in the best way possible. Maybe your work forced you to move to a new city, maybe you recently had children, or became an empty nester. Maybe you started a new job, or recently retired.
People can exist in two extremes when we are talking about an ability to change. We all know someone who lives their life with the “nothing is going to tie me down” attitude. Sometimes these people are referred to as ‘Adventurers’ or even ‘Nomads’. Regular life, restrictions, the corporate enterprise, or structure is not for them. The opposing lifestyle is someone who could be extremely resistant to any type of change. They live close to the place they grew up, have a stable job, still friends with all their elementary school buddies. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.
It is important to take a moment to understand where you land on this spectrum. Here are the top five strategies to help you become a ‘super adapter’:
- Understand and acknowledge how you feel about change. Review previous big changes in your life and discover what level of adapting makes you feel good about the path your life is taking. This will allow you to anticipate how well you will react when a change is upon you.
- Our daily routines are often disrupted with the big changes in our life. Understand what routines make you feel good and are essential for your overall health. These are the first things you should be figuring out as you go through a change. For example, if your regular cycle class, or running group is a huge part of your stress relief, but you are forced to move to a new location, take the time to organize your classes or find another group before you move. Re-establishing this routine will enhance your adaptability.
- Be confident that you can change. This is well established through decades of scientific research. Some areas such as our emotional reactions, introversion, or extroversion, and even anxiety in certain situations can be improved with regular effort and awareness. The work will be unique for each person and their circumstance, but it will result in positive improvements. The most important thing is to start where you can and move ahead in steps that feel comfortable to you.
- Journaling is one of the best ways to enhance your ability to change and adapt. It allows you to find patterns of things that are helpful. By writing down your feelings about events happening in your life, you will better understand habits that are not working well for you. When we write something down, it makes it seem more familiar and easier to understand.
- Give yourself a break and be kind to yourself and others as you go through change. Remember to practice things that are helpful to manage your stress such as meditation, stretching, yoga, deep breathing, walks in nature and a good night of sleep. Look for support from friends and family. By honestly communicating how you feel about changes to friends and family you will be able to find good support when you need it.
Life is filled with change. Sometimes we are in control of the changes, but sometimes we are not. It is important to understand that if you are an active participant in your adaptation, you will become a stronger person as a result.
Dr. Stacy Irvine is a chiropractor and the co-owner of Totum Health Sciences. To contact Stacy: email@example.com