edward scissorhands

There is no way to avoid major changes/upsets in our lives.

No matter how carefully we plan, the Universe has a mind of its own. As a friend of mine says, “Just when you think things are going well, life pulls the rug out from under you”. Or, as my ex-sister-in-law, a nun, used to tell me: “Know how to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.”

Let me share some ideas on how to minimize your anxiety and maximize your enjoyment as you weather the inevitable life changes that are thrust upon us all.

Mobilize your resources. Usually, your best resources are people who love you.  Stay in touch with people them and let yourself receive their love and support through phone calls, Emails, text messages, coffee dates, etc. Resources are anything you can call upon for strength: they may include your yoga class, the gym, that nice waiter at your favorite restaurant who always listens to your troubles. And don’t forget about Mother Nature: there is a lot of peace and comfort in being outside and drinking in the beauty of flowers, trees and animals. In San Diego, we’re so lucky we have access to these resources all year long.

Expand your circle of people. If you’ve just found a new job, even if it’s a temp job, get to know the new people around you. When you meet new people be open, friendly and – most importantly – keep your expectations low. These people may not become forever friends, but you can enjoy each other’s company as you make your transition into the next phase of your life. And, you never know who you may be sitting next to (at the new job, at the Unemployment office, at registration for next semester) and how they can help you through your crisis (and vice-versa). They may know a lot about the new boss, how to fill out confusing forms, or which classes are taught by the best professors.

Surround yourself with as much comfort as you can. Play your favorite songs, wear your favorite clothes, eat your favorite comfort foods (within reason).

Normalize your fears, e.g., talk with other people who are in the same boat. Realize that it’s normal to feel this way and that every other person in your situation is scared too.

Become your own cheerleader. Who else is going to encourage you on a daily basis? If you feel like you’re going to puke before going to your first class or first job interview, calm yourself with something like: “I know I’m nervous, but I can do this, even though I feel shaky.”

Reward yourself for doing something difficult. It’s behavior modification and it works. I don’t mean buying something you can’t afford. Go for something free or affordable, like a budget matinee movie or a nice meal somewhere (try the lunch specials) that won’t bust your budget. One client of mine takes a bubble bath and has a dish of strawberries by the tub that she nibbles on as she soaks. Not very expensive, but she feels like she’s living in luxury when she rewards herself that way.

Expect setbacks. Nobody goes through major life changes without occasionally falling on their ass. Treat yourself as a beloved child who’s learning to walk. If she/he walks a few feet and then falls down, you don’t say, “Is that the best you can do?” Instead, you’d praise the child for what she/he did accomplish: “That was great, I know you can do it again…come on, get back up and let’s do it again.” Treating yourself kindly after a setback will get you a lot further in life than berating yourself.

When it all feels like too much, remember that nothing lasts forever. Bad times pass; scary things become familiar and strangers eventually become friends. Be kind to yourself during these challenging times, and getting through change and upset will be a lot more pleasant.