They say that it’s as good as a rest but sometimes going through a period of change is the least restful experience a person has, particularly when the change isn’t welcome but sometimes even when it’s been longed for. But change is inevitable - we cannot escape it and must learn to deal with it and its impact on us.
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
As a therapist, change is often something my clients are seeking and something I hope I can help them towards. Some people feel ‘stuck’ and come to therapy seeking ways of freeing up their thinking and making the changes they need. Change can be subtle and clients don’t always perceive it happening in themselves. People around them might see it more readily but might not see it in a positive light. In this way, change can complicate a person’s life as loved ones, work colleagues, friends and acquaintances try to get used to the ‘new person’ they are faced with. Maybe they are now hearing the word ‘no’ coming from someone who previously always said ‘yes’. Maybe they see their partner or family member becoming more assertive, more confident and that makes them uncomfortable. Over time, most people learn to appreciate the benefits for the person making positive changes in their life and although it leads to renegotiating boundaries and reassessing relationships, it is usually for the better for all people involved.
Sometimes when making changes in your life it can be helpful not to change too many things all at once, especially when those changes impact people that matter to you. However, if something in your life needs to alter in order for you to thrive then it’s important to make that step, make that change and plan ways to deal with the consequences.
Some changes are forced on people - redundancy, divorce, ill health - and these can be difficult to deal with. The lack of choice and the unpreparedness for a new set of circumstances can leave us feeling rocked to our foundations. There are aspects of our life that have a feeling of permanence and when we are reminded that permanence is a myth it can be unsettling and sometimes distressing.
The impact of these changes is not always readily appreciated by the people around us and there can be an expectation that we should just get over it or that there should be some sort of ‘time limit’ on our processing what has happened. We can be left feeling alone and vulnerable. Finding someone to share our concerns with is often helpful but there are other things we can do to help ourselves some of which are outlined later.
The menopause is a hot topic in the media with women talking about it far more openly than was previously the case. As a perimenopausal woman myself, I’m acutely aware of why it is euphemistically referred to as ‘The Change’. Sometimes it feels like I’m becoming a whole other person!
Changes like this can be difficult to navigate as they are simply seen as a normal, natural part of life and so making a fuss of the physical symptoms, emotional turmoil and mental health impact may seem to some unnecessary. But as demonstrated by the women now speaking about their experiences, the impact is huge and far reaching - affecting not only the woman going through the menopause but also all the people around her.
Coping with change
- Confront it. Look at what has changed and how it has impacted your life. Is there anything at all positive you can see resulting from it? Maybe a sarcastic thought comes to mind as you try to find a positive - sit with that. E.g. if you lose your job perhaps you think, ‘At least I don’t have to listen to X going on about his bunions.’ It can be useful to focus on that.
- Mourn it. Grieve the things you’ll miss about the way things were. Some people find it helpful to ritualise the grieving process, eg. writing things down and then burning the paper. Cry if you need to or scream and rage if it helps.
- Create a routine. When there’s been a change and we find ourselves rocked by it, routine can be comforting. Ensuring that we have some sort of structure to our days can help us to feel a sense of stability.
- Give yourself space but don’t cut yourself off. This is a difficult one. It’s about balance. Even if other people haven’t been great at understanding what you’re going through, try to maintain connections with people where possible. At the same time, sometimes you need time and space to be able to work through your feelings and to plan your next steps. Don’t be afraid to allow yourself that.
- Take inventory. When deciding on your next steps you need to know where you’re at in this moment. What resources are still available to you? This can be in terms of people you can rely on; things or places you value; or inner resources of attitude, belief, or strength.
Whatever changes you are experiencing, I wish you well with navigating them and hope what you’ve read here is helpful in some way.