“The only thing constant is change.” This quote from the Greek philosopher Heraclitus rings as true now as it did back in the year 500 BC. Change happens. It can be scary, unsettling, or stressful at times, but it absolutely cannot be avoided. What changes are you experiencing personally and professionally these days? How are you feeling about and dealing with the life changes that have been presented to you?
The topic of change is very close to our hearts here at Infinite Horizons as some of us are experiencing major life changes right now. In May, Kathleen married a marvelous man, Jack Naglieri. Then, she moved from Michigan to northern Virginia to start a new, beautiful life with him. Michelle recently accepted a position as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer, and she leaves for Costa Rica in August. She will serve as a teacher trainer for the next year. Big shifts! Though these changes are extraordinarily positive, they still bring with them a wide range of feelings and new experiences to process.
Even when we choose to make big changes, change is hard! It’s even harder when change is forced upon us - especially if those changes aren’t positive. Many schools today are laying off teachers and moving others into positions they didn’t choose. There are new educational mandates being imposed that might not align with our beliefs. Sometimes unexpected life realities force us into dealing with change that brings us to our knees and alters our world forever. As Margaret Mitchell said, “Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect.”
So, like it or not, learning to handle change is an essential life skill. We need strategies to support us in going with the flow of change in order to deal with it in healthy, productive ways.
Since we have been living this ourselves, we are excited to share with you some of the things we do in order to help us embrace and/or cope with change. These are also great strategies to teach your students as they deal with their own life changes.
- CREATE RITUALS WITHIN CHAOS
Though many things may be changing around you, find a few things that remain the same. Use the comfort of the familiar as an anchor to allow you to open up to the new. Perhaps you moved to a new school. You can find comfort in the fact that you still work in a school. Students are still depending on you. You can still use the same effective pedagogical strategies that you used at the old school. Even when things seem like they’ve been turned up-side-down, there are still a few things that remain the same.
Create ceremonies or rituals to mark the end of one stage and the beginning of another. This practice can help us find closure for that which is ending and enthusiasm for that which is beginning. Organizations use ceremonies for this exact purpose – to acknowledge the past and prepare for the future. Think of graduation ceremonies, military promotions, etc. We can create our own personal version of these ceremonies to help us process change. Perhaps it’s something as simple as lighting a candle and sharing kind words about what just finished and encouraging thoughts about the events to come. Maybe it’s a larger event like a going-away party followed by a welcome event. Whatever ceremony you choose should help you come to terms with (and maybe even embrace) the twists and turns of the changing situation.
- REACH OUT RATHER THAN RETRACT
Ask for support. Though many of us do not like to ask for help, most people LOVE to lend a hand. Being useful and helpful to others deepens the human experience. Give someone an opportunity to get the warm fuzzies and ask them for the support you need.
Spend time with friends and family. Being around loved ones can raise our spirits and allow us to manage the tough emotions that can be stoked by change.
- FIND WAYS TO GROUND YOURSELF
Shift perspective. Reframing the situation to find the positive side of things can sometimes help us deal with change. Try writing a list of ways in which this change will benefit you or those around you.
Calm your mind. Meditation or Mindfulness is a wonderful practice that strengthens your “focusing muscles” and helps you to let go of stress and anxiety. Check out these two links regarding the power of meditation by Deepak Chopra. Meditation: Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, and a 21-day challenge of free daily meditation sessions.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Check your attitude. More than just a mood booster, a positive attitude affects every single part of your life: health, relationships, ability to cope with change, etc. If we can manage our attitude (and self-talk) around change, we can give ourselves a huge amount of support during tough times and be a fantastic example for our students. This article from the Mayo Clinic provides a medical perspective on the benefits of positive attitudes.
Maintain a healthy diet. Eating stress-busting, nutrient-packed foods like: eggs, dark, leafy greens, fish, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and dark chocolate can fortify your mind and body to better enable you to handle change. Read this NPR article for more information.
Get moving. Go for a walk, run, or participate in your favorite athletic activity. The body releases endorphins during physical activity that help you stay happy and lower your stress levels. For more information read this article from HowsStuffWorks.
Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep affects our moods, health, and cognitive processing. Change is much easier to deal with when you have your wits about you. You owe it to yourself to get your z’s! Here’s a great article about the importance of sleep.
We can’t stop change from happening in our lives; however we can control how we deal with it. Choosing to practice strategies that support us through change not only helps us in our personal and professional lives, but it also helps us to model appropriate coping behaviors for our students. Kathleen has taught her nieces and nephews this philosophy about dealing with change since they were little. (Her 21-year-old niece is practicing it right now as she spends the summer working in Rwanda!) “Life is an adventure. And any good adventure will always be equal parts scary and exciting.” That’s the challenge for us all – to choose to find the excitement (or the life lesson) in the scary parts that change brings to our life’s journey. What will you choose as you experience change this year?
Remember: “A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.” ― William G.T. Shedd
We would love to continue the conversation with all of you! We welcome you to share some of your stories or challenges of dealing with change with us on our Facebook page.
Written by: Michelle Leip and Kathleen Kryza