How to Navigate Change with Grace
A break up or divorce, moving to a new city, a change of jobs, pregnancy or becoming a new parent, graduating, getting married, a death in the family, a new health diagnosis, changes in finances, aging, questioning your gender or sexuality, and more. These are many of the inevitable changes and major life transitions we face. And oof, how they can really challenge us.
Change can feel scary, and even painful. Our nervous systems favor what is familiar. So when change takes us out of a situation – even when it wasn’t serving us – we can feel uncomfortable, anxious, and resistant. All of a sudden we are face-to-face with uncertainty and the unknown. It can feel unsafe on a cellular level.
Where there is change, there is also grief as we mourn the loss of a person, circumstance, or a part of ourselves. Self-doubt, anger, sadness, overwhelm, and depression are all a normal part of change whether it was welcomed or unexpected.
The thing about change that we don’t often realize is it confronts us with our own beliefs about ourselves and our ability to handle change. We experience stress when we believe a situation to be greater than our ability to cope with it. We feel overwhelm when we are so overcome by a thought or feeling that we are unable to function. In some cases, we become vulnerable to the resurfacing of any unprocessed emotions and conditioned beliefs from past trauma.
Though change is inevitably hard, we can create more ease for ourselves in the process. A few tips to navigate change with grace:
1. Slow down. When change is anxiety provoking, causing you to look toward the future in order to control, or pushing you to speed up in some way, that’s your sign to slow it way down. Come back to the this present moment. Remind yourself that you will be more effective in moving through this if you take it one step at a time. Usually change is calling us to look at something a little closer. It’s easy to miss this opportunity for growth if we’re rushing through it. Who is this situation calling you to become, or unbecome?
2. Breathe. We all know the benefits of breathing, so take some long, deep belly breaths to self-regulate and calm your nervous system. Perhaps try meditating on the breath while paying particular attention to the changing nature of the inhale to exhale. Let this be a powerful reminder that the only constant in life is change.
3. Reflect on past times of change. You have overcome and moved through every single transition and challenge in your life. How did you do that? Journal on it. Remind yourself how or what got you through those times.
4. Give yourself grace. There is no right or wrong way to navigate transitions, only ways that are more or less adaptive. Sometimes you may fumble all the way through it. There is no need to judge. Be extra gentle with yourself at this time.
5. Have faith. Trust in something. Moments like this may be an invitation to a spiritual awakening or a lesson in support of your personal evolution. Whether you trust yourself, your Higher Self, Greater Spirit, the wisdom of nature, or your pet, let yourself have faith in something that you know has your back to get you through this time. An example of faith in action is trusting in your ability to grow from this.
6. Optimism. What if it all works out? I don’t support toxic positivity, but I do support challenging our automatic thoughts and narratives. Many of us, especially us anxious ones, can tend toward thoughts of fear, worry, and doubt. We automatically jump to conclusions and worst case scenarios. I invite you just to be curious about the best possible outcome here. If we can think the worst, we can also think the best. Try this thinking on like an outfit.
7. Lean into support. Give yourself permission to ask for help. Call a friend, family member, or your therapist. If you are struggling on your own, let people in. Now is the time to lean on the trusted supports in your life.
Transitions offer us truth, wisdom, and perspective. And while you may not feel it now, if you’re able to be mindful, zoom out and see the bigger picture of your life story, this page turn could very well be the start of your most beautiful chapter yet.
If you’re going through a major life transition, you don’t have to navigate it alone. Talking to a therapist or counselor can help you adjust. Therapy offers a safe space to work through the challenges with someone who understands you. You will learn tools to reduce stress and overwhelm. You will gain valuable insights into the growth opportunity at hand so you can walk through this moment with more strength and grace for yourself and others.