Monday, April 23, 2018
Health

Navigating change: Learn how to cope, survive and ultimately thrive

Whoever said that death and taxes were life's only certainties missed at least one: change.

Indeed, the only constant in this world is that it's constantly changing.

Yet, for many of us, the first instinct is to resist change. To cling to the familiar.

After all, transitions, no matter how minor, can be uncomfortable, even frightening — especially the older we get.

But knowing that they're inevitable means that it's incumbent upon us to develop strategies.

For coping.

For surviving.

And for ultimately thriving.

So, with the help of Juno Beach life coach Sandy Strader, who specializes in guiding clients through significant life hurdles, we've compiled eight time-tested tactics for the unavoidable challenge of dealing with change.

1. Honor the past, present — and future.

We're all the sum of our life experiences — good, bad or otherwise. And that's why when you're heading into a new period in your life — be it personal or professional — it's helpful to reflect on where you've been. That doesn't mean getting stuck in the past, but rather embracing all that has led you to this stage.

2. Slow down if you need to.

"In times of stress, we often tend to go faster and faster," Strader said. Not only does this usually lead to an excess buildup of the stress hormone cortisol, which can affect your health, but such a rushed pace is unsustainable. Therefore, Strader recommended, "Slow down, take inventory and prioritize. If you need to say 'no' to certain things in your life during a transitional period, do so."

3. Create mental and emotional "white space" for yourself.

It's vital to unclutter your mind daily — and even several times a day if necessary — when dealing with the stress of a transitional period. For some, this might mean vigorous exercise; for others, it might mean yoga or fishing or a long bath. Whatever helps you tune out the mental and emotional noise — if only for a little while — is what you should do.

When Strader, a single mother, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, she availed herself to the white-space-creating treatments offered at Sari Center Integrative Cancer Care in Palm Beach Gardens. "Think outside the box if you need to," Strader said.

4. Eliminate all unnecessary steps.

Be it work, taking care of the kids or doing whatever else needs to be done at this challenging time, you want to be as efficient as possible.

"Any time you can simplify your execution steps is a victory," Strader explained. "Even if you save just a few minutes here and there, it adds up — and spares you mental and emotional stress down the road."

5. Practice self-care.

Many of us expend so much energy taking care of others, we often neglect to take proper care of ourselves.

Physically.

Emotionally.

Spiritually.

That's why Strader will ask her clients, "What kind of relationship do you have with yourself?"

For example, try to banish from your mind any negative thoughts you have about yourself. Studies have shown that negative self-thoughts have a measurably negative effect on one's health.

"You wouldn't say mean things to someone else," Strader reasoned. "Why would you say them to yourself?"

6. Practice mindfulness.

Stay in the moment as much as you possibly can. While it's natural to sometimes look backward with regret, or ahead with apprehension, those who manage to stay present achieve the greatest peace of mind.

Strader counsels her clients to visualize living "in that space between inhale and exhale ... between action and reaction — because that's where our true power lies."

7. Believe in the "law of attraction."

Strader said that she has found "we attract what we think about." In other words, negative or apprehensive thinking is likely to create a self-fulfilling reality, whereas a more positive, upbeat approach will reframe the entire experience.

One of the techniques Strader uses with clients who tend to get caught in negative thought loops is to have them simply pretend that they can have positive thoughts about the issue that's causing them anxiety.

"I ask them, 'What comes to mind? What do you see? How big is your smile?' "

Visualizing positive outcomes can be a vital first step in eventually making them come to pass.

8. Lean on your support system.

From friends and family to colleagues, counselors and support groups, there are probably way more folks truly invested in your well-being than you realize. So, if and when you feel you could benefit from their support — let them help you.

After all, think of how good it makes you feel when you help others. The people in your life will derive that same satisfaction when you lean on them.

A true win-win for everyone.

Steve Dorfman writes for the Palm Beach Post.

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