If they were giving out badges for the skills we’ve been working on since March, one of them would surely be for “Pivoting.” (I imagine an embroidered version of that couch scene from Friends.) Coronavirus has altered our day-to-day existence in so many ways and forced us to be nimble in adjusting to those disruptions. As we move into a fall season that looks very different from what we imagined it might look like before COVID-19, we’re once again figuring out how to roll with the punches.
Though change may be life’s only constant, it doesn’t mean that handling those changes is easy. Luckily, like many skills, you can practice adapting and getting better at coping with change—even when it’s difficult. Here’s how.
Change can be stressful—with it comes uncertainty, fear, and loss of control. Even positive change can bring about stress. It can be easier to learn how to adapt to change if we understand why some people are more resistant to it than others. Our personality can influence our response to disruptions in our life—that accounts for the folks you know whose feathers are never ruffled versus the ones who come undone when Target switches up their store layout.
For many who fall in the latter camp (guilty as charged), our first response to change may be denial. This completely normal response is your brain’s way of trying to protect you from something it sees as a potential threat. If I ignore this thing that’s happening to me, then maybe it’ll go away on its own. Denial can also be a healthy coping mechanism—it offers a barrier between the source of stress until you have time to rationally process it. That being said, when denial is prolonged, it can become harmful. Refusing to acknowledge this change in your life also means you’re not seeking healthy ways to cope—which brings us to the next step.
Make Note of the Change
This part is pretty literal—acknowledge the change. This can be as simple as noting what’s different about your life now. Note: try to do this without attaching judgment or expectation. For example, “Our troop was supposed to go camping next month, but that trip has been canceled,” or, “I can only chat with my friends on FaceTime now.” I’ll add that noticing change is not the same as embracing it. You don’t need to adopt a Pollyannaish attitude about these changes in your life to accept that they’ve happened.
Give Yourself Time to Grieve
While we most associate grief with the loss of a loved one, grief is also a common reaction to any kind of loss, including the loss of routine, income, stability, or purpose. For me, when we moved to distance learning, it wasn’t just the abrupt switch to homeschooling that threw me for a (huge) loop. I also found myself mourning the ability to wait outside my kiddo’s school for the front doors to open and be greeted by our principal. We might feel sheepish or even a little ashamed to grieve something that might seem insignificant or trivial to someone else, but you’re allowed to feel your feelings, in whatever form they arise.
Find an Anchor
Changes, and the uncertainty that inevitably follows, can leave us feeling unmoored. To better prepare yourself for the impact of those changes, try to structure some consistency in your daily routine. This can be anything from brushing your teeth every morning to stretching before bed. Knowing that at least one thing will stay the same every day serves as an anchor, giving your brain a break from wondering what will happen next.
Let Go of What You Can’t Control
Sudden changes can cause us to compensate by tightening our hold on other aspects of our life. But perhaps Elsa said it best—sometimes, you just have to let it go. No matter how much we prepare and hope for otherwise, the unexpected is bound to happen. Accepting that some things are beyond your control can give you freedom to breathe and then find ways to positively respond.
In the moment that it’s happening, we can easily adopt a nearsighted attitude towards change—we question why these changes are occurring and wish for things to remain the same. Ultimately, however, life is but a series of changes. And though we might not be able to see it now, every change is also an opportunity to learn and grow.
Lily Yu –Lily is a Program Resource Specialist at River Valleys. She earned her BA in comparative literature and Japanese from Hamilton College and has a background in publishing and advertising. Though she wasn’t a Girl Scout growing up, Lily is making up for lost time as a volunteer and troop cookie manager for her daughter’s Brownie troop. In her free time, she enjoys going for long walks, reading, and spending time with her family (And rescue dog, Neil!).