How to transition through hard shit with some grace
It’s been a whirlwind, folks. I’ve had LOTS of change in my corner of the world, most of it came unexpectedly, and even with months to get used to said changes, I find myself still in the proverbial head scratch of “what just happened?”
Lucky for me, and maybe for you if you’re reading this and wondering about good strategies to handle your own big changes (oh, cause they will come for all of us!) I’ve been doing nervous system regulation work for a few years now. I do have things that help me slide through the change with just a little bit of grace.
Here are my top five ways to navigate large life changes without pooping your pants on a daily basis.
Also, please note. Navigating change with grace doesn’t mean that you aren’t sad, overwhelmed, questioning, distraught, or any of the other big emotions that come with major life changes. Having a well regulated system DOES mean that you can partner with yourself through all the feelings, and emerge on the other side.
1. Try not to make any large moves unless you absolutely have to
This is wonderful advice from my mom, and a piece I always refer back to when I am not sure what to do. Unless you have to make a decision RIGHT NOW about any major life things, don’t. See if you can communicate to necessary parties that you need a week or a month to figure out your next move. Making large choices in the middle of an upset can lead us to bad haircuts, crap apartments, and poor relationships. The sticky wicket here is that we often feel the survival impulse of, “I must act RIGHT NOW” in conjunction with large changes.
Practice: Try this
Find a few minutes away from the situation. If your change involves an ex — go somewhere without them that doesn’t remind you of them at all. If it is the loss of a job, or a living situation — same practice, find an area that feels like yours and yours alone. Maybe a spot in nature, or a favorite walk or café. Give yourself thirty minutes to go spend time in YOUR place and take assessment. Allow yourself to land (see #5) for a few moments. Feel your feet on the ground, notice your breath. (You can check out my ebook on anxiety healing for more tools to get present)
Ask yourself: What are my needs right now? What do I absolutely need to take action on today? What do I absolutely need to take action on this week?
Everything else — give yourself some freaking time and space to plan your next move when you aren’t in a hyper alert state. If it doesn’t have to be done right now, leave it.
2. Give yourself time to feel all the feelings and sensations that are associated with this change
It sucks, I know it. In all honestly, I’ve cried most days the past two months. Change sure stirs things up! I feel a lot, it’s one of my superpowers. Maybe it’s one of yours too? While I don’t advocate loads of wallowing (see healthy distraction below!) it is imperative we feel all of the feelings that go with big changes. If you can feel them in conjunction with a practitioner, counselor, or therapist on your team — all the better. Professional help is incredibly supportive in reminding you that you are more than your discomfort.
Something I personally have found helpful is giving myself time dedicated to seeing what comes up and being present with it. You can do this with a brief meditation or seated “quiet time” practice. No special skills or equipment needed!
Practice: Try this
Set a timer for 10-15 minutes, sit your butt down, and be open to being present with what comes up. Make a point to connect to your body and ask your mind to loosen control on all the tasks it is so helpfully trying to categorize for you.
Observe your breath, your belly, your feet touching the ground, or go through a body scan. Find what works for you. See if you can stay with yourself.
And feel. Let it flow. Remember you are more than your sadness, your hurt, your big change that feels overwhelming. You are a magnificent being of spirit and life force with an undeniable spark. Feeling is a super power.
P.S. I can’t express enough how helpful it is to do this with a therapist or practitioner if you have that available to you. Practicing feeling with the guidance of a trained professional helps you to safely connect with your body, and makes it easier to practice on your own.
3. Healthy distraction is HEALTHY!
What kinds of things to you like to do? How do you enjoy spending your time? Even if this answer is watching old episodes of Survivor while you eat popcorn, do that. I do recommend that you don’t distract with substances, overeating, over exercising, or over working. It is easy to want to be VERY distracted and throw yourself into something that brings short term relief.
Balance of feeling what’s happening and healthy distraction is key.
Physical activity as a distraction and a means to stay healthy during a difficult time can also be incredibly helpful. I caution again not to take this to extremes, especially if you are a person who tends to do this.
I cited my new found love of rock climbing as a resource recently, because it reminds me that I am a strong badass who can do hard things. It also takes my mind off of everything else because to climb, I need to stay focused on what I am doing each moment.
Practice: try this
Identify an activity you enjoy doing that helps to shut your brain off for a little while. Dedicate time to this activity, plan it into your day like a respite. In times of intense brain activity (change is non stop) you need periods of shutting it down for awhile. Please note I am not advocating you use self destructive or harmful behaviors to distract yourself. Refrain from substances that take you away from yourself. HEALTHY distraction is the pertinent word here. You get to identify what that is for you.
4. Fall back on your tribe. Support is KEY
Oh, how I love and appreciate my dear friends, my sober sisters, and my larger community online and through She Recovers. Reach out regularly! Let people know you need extra support right now. It is easy to isolate and become drawn into your own world and story (justifiably so!) when large scale change is happening. It can also be hard for many of us strong, capable, and bad ass women to ask for help or support.
Calling just to hear a friendly voice and check in with how someone else is doing can also bring you out of your internal whirlwind. Showing up for meetings or gatherings with other women and holding space for others to share can broaden your own internal experience. When we can come out of the darkness, the chaos, and the uncertainty, even for small amounts of time — we are better equipped to heal and to move through the rough stuff.
Practice: Try this
Identify a few close friends you can ask for more support during this time. Ask them if it’s ok to check in more regularly, and ask for what you need. Maybe it’s just to have someone listen, to have a friendly text exchange or brief phone call daily, to say good night and good morning. Just knowing your tribe and friends care about you is amazingly helpful in navigating your way to the other side of the change.
5. Find small moments to land in yourself throughout the chaos
Landing back inside of ourselves throughout a time of change and uncertainty brings us large scale peace of mind. If you are of the tendency (like I am!) to have everything completed, all tasks finalized, and everything figured out before you rest — invite yourself to try something different. Having every detail resolved in a time of massive change is not going to happen overnight. Yes, take care of what is immediately in front of you and what needs to be dealt with.
AND. Build in rest blocks and landing time for yourself. This can be longer stretches of time – a weekend camping trip or visiting a friend. Shorter periods of time — going for a hike in the mountains. Or even for 5 minutes at the end of the day. Turn off everything and lay down.
When we come back into our bodies and pause from over thinking, physiological magic happens. Tight areas loosen, our breath naturally slows and deepens, our eyes become softer, and we feel more like ourselves. Giving ourselves this time to land and connect helps to revitalize and nourish the system.
Practice: Try this
When you have a moment during the day, find a wall and put your legs up it. If this isn’t physically comfortable for you, you’re welcome to adapt this posture to any kind of laying down position that feels good and supportive. If you can place your legs up the wall and rest your back on the floor, do so for 5-10 minutes with the intent and purpose of landing. Of coming back in, and allowing your system to settle. You can occupy your mind by observing the sensations in your body. Be curious about what’s happening inside, and simply try to track and observe sensations without being attached to why they are there or the outcome.
In the End….
Change is inevitable, yes, and while it’s wonderful to embrace it and look forward to the next exciting thing — caring for ourselves as we go through it, taking time to grieve anything we have lost, and fully feeling all the parts of ourselves as we transition is key.