Change can feel generative, restorative, and exciting; while at the same time feeling terrifying, unpredictable, and like you’ve lost control. With the changing of life seasons, relationships, or jobs it can feel like you’re on a boat in the middle of a tumultuous sea, being tossed about and clinging for dear life. Not having a say in a major life change leaves us feeling powerless, and at times grieving and hopeless. So how can we stay calm when we feel we’ve lost our power? Here’s a few small yet practical steps that have proven successful for myself and my clients.
Reflect on what you can control and what you can’t - A thought exercise I frequently do with clients is to have them draw out two concentric circles (one inside of the other). In the outer circle list all of the things that you have no control over- such as the weather, other people’s words and actions, illness, job markets, etc. Then on the inside circle list the things that you do have control over- such as your actions, what you say, what you eat, how you react to someone else, and what you think. So often we are focused on the things in the outer circle, and desperately want power over things that are just frankly impossible to control. This leaves us stuck spinning our wheels feeling frustrated and burnt out. By shifting our focus to what we do have control over, we can start to remember that we do in fact have power over many aspects of our lives.
Create a routine, and stick to it (as much as you can) - When things seem upended and unhinged it’s important to establish at least one or two consistent things in our day to day life to keep us grounded. A routine can be as simple as making your bed and walking your dog every morning, despite the chaos of what the rest of the day may bring. It could look like carving out 30 minutes every evening to talk and connect with your partner before bed. Make sure it’s realistic, and try to stick to it as much as possible, while also giving yourself permission to miss a day or two.
Ask for help - You are one person, and even though you may not realize it, you do in fact have a capacity for how much you can handle on your own. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I urge you to reach out and ask for help. Ask for help watching your kids, proof reading a resume, taking care of errands, or just having a loved one spend time with you and offer a listening ear. Asking for help takes a lot of courage, and it is worth it. And when someone offers help- accept it! People find joy and meaning through supporting people they care about, so remember that you are not a burden.
Prioritize your time and energy - There is only so much time in the day, and when we have a lot on our plate to deal with we frequently find ourselves left with no energy and no time left to take care of ourselves. Make it a point to figure out what is most important to right now in this season and focus on that. Make time to take care of yourself- sleeping and eating are essential. Ask yourself “what people in my life help me feel valued, rejuvenated, or understood?” and invest your time with those people. Remember that it is okay- and healthy in fact!- to say no to someone. If you don’t have enough time or emotional energy, make that clear and prioritize yourself and what’s important to you.
Cultivate a mantra/ positive affirmation/ mindfulness practice - When we’ve got a lot on our minds, it’s way too easy to go through the day without connecting to our breath or quieting our brains. Mindfulness doesn’t need to look like an hour long meditation or full yoga flow. It can look like taking a deep breath first thing in the morning and trying to think of at least one thing that you’re thankful for. Keep it simple, and realistic. Having some kind of positive mantra can be a big help in times of change, because it can keep you connected to what you value. See the poem below for an example of a mantra that helps keep me grounded.
I hope that by taking care of yourself, you begin to feel a little more anchored in the middle of a sea of chaos. You may not be able to stop the waves of change, but you can control how you react to them. I want to leave you with a prayer/meditation/poem that helps me to remain grounded and open handed when it comes to change. When I read this I like to sit with actual open hands, palms facing up and symbolizing a release of the ways I fight against things I have no control over, and rest in the things that I can control- my thoughts and my actions. The Welcoming Prayer is by Father Thomas Keating, and although it has been used traditionally in spiritual settings, I invite you to adapt it to fit whatever best helps bring you into a place of peace. Swap the word God for anything that resonates meaningfully with you- nature, the universe, your own inner strength, peace, a loved one, etc.
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it's for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God* (or nature, the universe, your own inner strength, peace, a loved one, etc.)