When the Terrain of Life Changes
Moving on from a broken relationship. Retiring from a job you loved. Watching your youngest child leave the nest. These are changes we expect in life; even when they’re welcome, they’re not always easy. Today, we’re all facing life-changing circumstances of the current pandemic that nobody expected, which makes the challenge still greater.
Leaving behind what’s comfortable or familiar, even when you know it’s temporary, can ignite fears about the future. You may feel overwhelmed or even paralyzed by the “great unknown.” We all feel that way, and somehow we will get through it.
You may feel desperate for an answer about what you should do next. It’s okay if you don’t have one.
“Why is it a bad thing if you’re not sure?” says Sharon Alpert, LICSW, life management therapist at Canyon Ranch Lenox. “If you’ve spent most of your life doing something or living a certain way, and that avenue is no longer open, it’s unrealistic to think that what comes next will always be automatic.”
“The key to feeling calmer about what lies ahead is being open to the possibilities, even if you don’t know what they are yet. This mind-shift can help unblock you and give you room to find your way,” Alpert says.
Though your experience is unique to you, you may find these suggestions helpful as you work to adjust and restore your confidence and balance once again:
Take Time to Process What’s Transpired
When a change is set into motion, it’s common to feel blinded by the enormity of it. As the days pass, make an effort to think about what has happened.
Allowing abstract thoughts to keep swirling – I’m not me if I’m not working … not seeing my friends … not traveling – only makes them gain steam. The journey you now face might seem not only longer, but impossible. Your goal here is to ground yourself – to gain clarity over the situation and accept that the change is happening.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
“If you think it’s your job to know for certain what will come of change, you’re not being fair to yourself,” Alpert says. “How can anyone be new at something and an expert at the same time?” Give yourself a reprieve. Go beneath this notion to pinpoint what troubles you – I miss seeing my friends … I’m worried about finances … I don’t know what to do with my free time.
Stating your feelings doesn’t make them disappear. However, calling them out – putting a name on what’s truly bothering you – may help you feel less trapped. You know which areas to address.
Value Small Steps
When you find change difficult, it’s unlikely that you feel energized to move forward. Some things may not even be possible at this time. You might decide it’s easier just “be” than to evolve, even if your current state isn’t making you happy. Remember that trying, not “fixing,” is enough.
“Trying is how we learn,” says Alpert. “Just making an effort is progress in and of itself, and it can be encouraging, prompting more small steps in a new direction.”
With time and patience, you could find yourself on a new adventure. Your next step may be your best one.