There is clearly a lot of change going on in the UK right now and It’s been interesting to see how the prospect of change has affected many people and the spectrum of feelings it has created.
There are many feelings associated with change; fear, anxiety, anger, relief, excitement, and joy, are just some of the things we might feel when faced with a life transition.
Clients often say to me that they are good or not so good at coping with change and partly for all of us that is true, but for me it’s about two key things;
How much control you feel you have over the change.
How you choose to intrepid the change that is going to take place.
For many people the whole EU leave or stay campaign has created so much extremes of emotions because those who wanted Leave will feel their vote counted for the first time ever and they rightly or wrongly have control of what happens next. They will see what lies ahead as positive and will have played out in their minds what ‘out of the EU’ means for them and their families, they will have chosen to intrepid this potential change as a positive step forward.
The opposite can be said for the stay campaigners, they will feel that they have no control over what happens next, and as they don’t want it will be left feeling angry, scared and confused about what the world has in store for them in the future.
They will at this stage be looking at what they will lose and how it will affect them and their family and society generally, and they will feel it very deeply.
Some people will be surprised by the depth of the feelings they are having right now, and this is normal with change because how we cope or feel about change is really about the impact it is having or going to have on our own lives.
Some people describe life change to me as feeling like a loss and will mourn this loss like a death..
Last August I entered a massive life change myself when my father was diagnosed as being terminally ill, came to live with us so we could manage his end of life care and my husband and I became carers to my mother, who has vascular dementia, and who now lives with us full time since my father passed away in September.
It would be fair to say our lives have been turned upside down and many of the things we previously took for granted like holidays and going out in the evenings take massive planning and often don’t happen. Add this to the feelings of grief of losing a father and watching your mother’s illness develop then there is a whole lot of emotion floating around.
I have felt all sorts of emotions over the last 10 months, from anger to guilt and everything in between, and why wouldn’t I, I didn’t ask for or want this change and I had no control over the situation. However, what I have learnt over the last 10 months is that whilst I can’t change what has happened I can have control over the way I chose to deal with our situation right now.
I can make sure I have support in place for those darker moments, that my mom has the best possible professional care and support and my husband and I take advantage of any opportunity, no matter how small the window, to take time out together and for ourselves as individuals.
It’s true that at times change ‘sucks’ but it can also can present us with many opportunities to learn about ourselves, grow as individuals, and go in a direction we never thought possible.
We are complex and unique individuals and therefore we should not feel embarrassed or ashamed should we find we are just not coping with a particular situation or not demonstrating as much resilience as those around us.
I’m always reminded of my time working out in Haiti with the British Red Cross in 2010 after the life shattering earthquake where a week after it happened street sellers were back on the streets, outside buildings that had seen massive destruction and many lives had been lost. Initially I was shocked however I came to realise that for some of these people their lives are a series of constant changes through natural disasters, poverty and the state of their country, and they have had to develop a coping strategy just to get through each day.
What most of us do without even realising it is develop our own coping strategy, sometimes this will be positive however there are times when our strategy might not be helpful to our overall wellbeing.
Whether you are losing a job, ending a relationship, mourning the loss of a loved one or facing any other kind of change it’s ok to give yourself permission to feel a whole range of emotions, you wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t.
Life can at times feel very unfair and overwhelming and we can sometimes get stuck in the moment, like a rabbit in the headlights we can feel paralysed by fear and unable to move.
There are times also when we are surprised by our feelings even when we want the change to happen, for instance We can still feel guilty or sad when we chose to leave a relationship or a job even though we know it is what we want to happen. It is still a change you are making, still something you are letting go of that you probably have put a lot of time and energy into.
There is no timeframe for how long we take to adjust to a situation, however, it’s when we can’t move on that we might need to seek out help and support. Sometimes we just need someone to hold our hand and guide us, and sometimes even challenge our thinking, through what feels like an impossible journey.
By helping to break down the change into achievable steps it is possible to take back control over something that you believed you could not have.
We can’t change the past but we can choose how we think about it.
We can however embrace the present and take control over how we want our future to be.