Coping With Change

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the many readers of The Delaware Wave for your feedback and responses to this column.

Interestingly, many of your emails, calls (and even letters) include questions and comments about coping with changes that occur in life. I guess that’s because so many of us are ‘transplants,’ having left family, friends and familiar places behind in favor of living here on the Delaware shore. And, by the way, you visitors and part-timers out there—don’t turn the page, thinking this doesn’t apply to you! Many of us ‘locals’ also started out traveling here on vacation. And for us (and maybe for you), that special attachment lingered well past Labor Day. Winter memories of the boardwalk at twilight, the smell of hot fries and pizza mingled with Coppertone, or the early morning sight of dolphins glistening offshore, ultimately ended up leading us to the settlement table. So read on!

Even when you know that a change is going to be good, the process can still be difficult. Though the happiness and anticipation can be bittersweet, there are little things you can do to make transitions in your life a little less traumatic.

To start, write down the good things the change will bring. Emphasize the positive aspects. For example, you may be saying to yourself, ‘I’m relocating to the beach full time. It’s what I always wanted to do, but I’m really going to miss my old friends, and moving is stressful.’ If so, then write: ‘YES, BUT now I can enjoy everything about the beach on a full time basis. My old friends will still visit, and I’ll make new ones. Moving is indeed stressful, but it’s temporary. When it’s done, it’s done. The pleasures of living where I want to live will be permanent.’

Another example: ‘My child is going off to college and I’m going to miss her.’ Put pen to paper: ‘YES, BUT my child is successful. She made it to college. She’s going to advance her life. The purpose of having a child was to successfully raise her to adulthood—and it’s working!’

Remind yourself of the positive aspects of the changes you have chosen to make. Add to your list as you think of more. Don’t write down what’s negative—it’s the negative thoughts we’re trying to get rid of! The written word, in a simple and short-handed fashion, is an amazingly effective way to keep depressing emotions in check. Keep in mind that you almost always have choices. If you don’t like one change, you can choose another. It’s OK to make course corrections in your life.

Unfortunately, some changes are not so easy to endure. We all suffer losses and traumas we did not choose or anticipate. In these cases we find effective ways to cope with the loss, and, in time, figure out what to do next. Tolerating and surviving a failure, a disappointment or a rejection isn’t easy, but the inner strength we gain can actually open up opportunities later on. Imagine getting rejected for a job you wanted. At first, it’s devastating. You’re going to feel sad for a while. However, as time passes, you realize that you don’t have to focus on this job anymore. You’re liberated. You can now focus on something else—something that will likely be just as good or even better. Don’t just take my word for it. Think back on rejections or disappointments in your past. Didn’t things often end up turning out just as good or better?

Change is part of life. Life is dynamic and prone to variation. Imagine a world in which nothing ever changed! There would be no inventions and conveniences; no computers, medicines, cars or gadgets to make our lives more convenient. We would see far fewer places, enjoy far fewer choices, and possibly not even live as long as we do now. If you never experienced or learned anything new, think how stagnant life would be.

Over the years, I have talked with many depressed people. One common theme in their lives is that, for whatever reason, they don’t make changes. Because of the lack of variation and fresh experiences, life becomes a sterile quagmire of mediocrity. I work hard to convince them, one way or another, that the only truly depressing thing about all of this is that it never had to be!

So look at the progression of your life as an airplane flight, a train ride, or an automobile trip. It’s not always comfortable or convenient, and it might even be a little risky, but it’s the only way to get where you really want to go.