by Janice Feuerhelm LPC

Change. A five letter word that is as much a part of our lives as the sun rising and setting.

When we think about the natural rhythm of life that happens automatically, we fail to include the fluctuations of change. Change is not only inevitable but it can be both welcomed and/or unwelcomed. It’s something that at times, we crave and long for, like the welcome change of a new job, a new baby, a new trip or new friendships. All of these changes bring about feelings of joy and excitement. However, as exciting as they may be, we may still feel a certain amount of fear, anxiousness and loss. The anxiousness that can come with learning something new, the sadness of leaving co-workers and friends behind. The loss of life as you knew it before a baby and the fear that comes with raising a human! The recognition and acknowledgment that our emotions are a major part of change is just as important as the change itself. You see this is how change becomes the conduit for self-growth.

We can all be on board with welcomed change but it is the unwelcomed times of change that can really throw us in a tailspin! The change that can happen instantaneously, the change that can occur without any warning at all. A MAJOR CHANGE that came in the name of Covid-19 and impacted us all. And oh boy did it create change! A change in routine, a change in celebrations, a change in our daily lives, a complete interruption to what felt normal. It even brought with it, what could be seen as obsessive behaviors, of hand-washing, hand-sanitizing, and wiping down everything in sight! We could not have prepared for these changes to our routines.

I remember the first week of staying home and conducting my client sessions via phone and video. I at least made myself shower each day but I still felt so out of sorts. I remember feeling afraid of getting Covid-19 – so afraid that I did not want to leave my house and when I did, it was only for a very quick grocery run. After about a week of feeling paralyzed, I realized I had to do things differently. I started my day as I normally would. I dressed for work, whether I had 1 appointment or 5 appointments. I started making masks for others as I needed a creative outlet and it was my way of doing what I could. I learned after about two weeks that I had to limit the news information I was receiving; otherwise I felt overwhelmed by it all. After about three weeks, I started to relax some and I could see a new rhythm develop. I had finally processed through how I felt about it all; the fear, the anxiousness, the confusion, and the sadness for those that were either on the front lines or had lost their lives. A new normal was developing but I first had to take control of what I had control over and let go of what I didn’t have control over.

I think about all the moms that missed out on their son or daughter and their special day for prom. All the missed opportunities to celebrate with a loved one or grieve with others over the loss of a loved one. The loss of family gatherings that didn’t take place as planned. The loss of your kid’s end-of-year school parties. All of these things MATTER DEEPLY to us. The grief is a direct measure of the very thing that you’ve lost. The more painful the feelings, the greater importance it has/had in our lives. Without grief/feelings of sadness, we would not be aware of how important something is to us.

But just as loss can be a result of change so can new and exciting discoveries. The discovery of one’s ability to adapt to challenges. The discovery of strengths and talents that are explored and implemented in a new and interesting way (drive-by parades as an example). and strengths that result from a united group of people (making masks for others as an example, playing instruments on balconies as seen in Italy). You see, we are much more resilient as humans then we give ourselves credit for. We do have the ability, to not only adapt to changes, but to also thrive in the midst of changes; but only when we tap into our own strengths and the strengths of those around us. When you feel overwhelmed because of change, I encourage you to seek what is normal. And just know that anytime we are changing, we are also growing.

As a therapist, I often hear from others, “I hate change!”; it is usually said with a scowl and an attitude. But then when I ask the question, “What has changed for you since you were in high-school? A new perspective shifts into place. Would we really want things to remain the same throughout our lives? Sometimes, the feelings of discontentment and boredom are just the feelings we need to catapult change. Without change, we would not have electricity flowing through our homes. We would not have the wide world of the internet or Heaven-forbid, dare I say Facebook! Change is as necessary in our lives as food and water. We are hard-wired for change by our Heavenly Creator because HE knows we have the creativity and capability to manage it. He also knows that we grow as individuals as the direct result of change. It is not something to fear but to embrace with the knowledge and confidence that we are not alone in change.

So, when you are confronted with change, remember:

1. Change is inevitable.

2. We have the resiliency and abilities to adapt to change.

3. Having support from others can help with changes.

4. Acknowledge all feelings related to change.

5. It is NORMAL to feel sad with both positive and negative changes.

6. Change brings about an opportunity for creativity and growth.

7. And lastly, it strengthens us as humans.