As humans, we are often resistant to change. So when things change, and they have changed A LOT over the past year, it may elicit strong feelings of fear and resistance.
We know change is a constant. Nothing stays exactly as it is. Nothing. It is the only thing in life that is inevitable. So why is it so difficult to embrace?
Fear of the unknown, loss of control, being taken out of our comfort zone, and realizing we can no longer do the things that we once were able to do with predictability and ease are all reasons why we resist change.
When we experience change, it is a natural reaction to view the change as negative. This is called “uncertainty bias”. It impacts how you deal with change. When a major life change happens, the brain automatically sees it as negative. This can influence the decision-making process and increase feelings of anxiety and depression. In fact, many times I can feel the change happening in my body before I acknowledge it in my mind. These inner cues help me stop, pause, and feel. I can bring awareness to the situation and move forward with the tools listed below to help me bring compassion and understanding to the experience.
Learning how to manage reactions and cope with change can make a difference in terms of mental and physical health and well-being. It is how we become resilient. Healthy coping mechanisms will allow your mental health to thrive, will boost mood, and lower stress levels. Relationships flourish and the body feels healthier.
Resilience & Spirituality
Resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change (Merriam-Webster). Brene Brown reminds us in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, of the most common factors resilient people share are:
- They are resourceful and have good problem-solving skills.
- They are more likely to seek help.
- They hold the belief that they can do something that will help them to manage their feelings and to cope.
- They have social support available to them.
- They are connected with others, such as family or friends.
Brene learned through her research that these factors were not the only components to managing change. She realized those who could recover from change were also spiritual. Brene defines spirituality based on her interviews as follows:
Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.
Without exception, spirituality — the belief in connection, a power greater than self, and interconnections grounded in love and compassion — emerged as a component of resilience.
Most people spoke of God, but not everyone. Some were occasional churchgoers; others were not. Some worshipped at fishing holes; others in temples, mosques, or at home. Some struggled with the idea of religion; others were devout members of organized religions. The one thing that they all had in common was spirituality as the foundation of their resilience.
From this foundation of spirituality, three other significant patterns emerged as being essential to resilience:
- Cultivating hope
- Practicing critical awareness
- Letting go of numbing and taking the edge off vulnerability, discomfort, and pain.
Mindfulness & Self-Care
Yoga and meditation are wonderful practices to help you become more mindful and care for your mental and physical health.
Yoga can give us the strength and insight we need to navigate the most radical forms of change. We learn to tune into our emotional and physical states of being without judgment. This includes a compassionate awareness of the changing state of our bodies and minds on a daily basis. When we move our bodies with mindfulness and compassion, we can positively impact our state of mind through the power of our breath.
Before you step onto your yoga mat, ask yourself what would best serve you at this moment in time. Take time to pause and listen to your inner voice. Trust the messages coming from within. You may be inspired to do a more vigorous, active vinyasa practice or a slower, gentle restorative class. Paying attention to what you need and acting on these desires helps you build resilience.
Prana, life force, moves through us with ease when we relax or surrender into the moment. One way we can become calm, clear, and stable is with our breath.
There are many pranayama or breath practices to help us calm and stabilize the mind. Two of the easiest to access are the 1:1 and 1:2 breath. All you need to do is find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and breathe in and out of your nostrils.
A 1:1 ratio of inhale to exhale is called Sama Vritti. Sama Vritti is even, regulated breathing. This breath practice can quickly shift the mind into a state of ease and stability.
A 1:2 ratio of inhale to exhale is known as the calming breath. It is very calming to the mind and nervous system. It is also a wonderful entryway into meditation.
Meditation is another powerful tool to help us be present in the moment and rest in silence with awareness and curiosity instead of judgment.
Benefits of meditation:
- Creates measurable changes in the regions of the brain associated with 1) self-awareness, 2) compassion, and 3) introspection.
- Increases gray matter of the hippocampus that helps with learning and memory.
- Shrinks the gray matter in the amygdala which plays an important role in anxiety and stress.
- Allows the brain to decompress. Giving us space to dream, and create, as well as feel calm, centered, and more in balance.
There are many ways to meditate. Find a method that feels good to you and start there. You can keep it as simple as closing your eyes, connecting to your breath, and noticing the sensations, thoughts, and feelings within.
I offer guided meditations on my “Resilience & Grace” podcast. Subscribe wherever you listen (Apple, Spotify, Google podcast) and notice the positive effects.
Making time for self-care moments throughout our days helps stabilize our mind and body so we are better prepared to navigate change. Moments of self-care vary from person to person and day-to-day. Personally, I need more grounding, and calming practices to help balance the fire within. If you tend to get angry, irritated, or judgmental easily during moments of change, these fire-pacifying practices may be beneficial and cool the sharp, intense mind.
We know change is inevitable. Change is constant. How we respond to change is what helps us move from surviving to thriving.
Mary McCarthy, MPH, is the owner of Resilience & Grace. She is an E-500 RYT yoga instructor. With over 20 years of experience teaching, Mary shares her passion and knowledge of yoga with people of all ages helping them feel good at any age. You can practice with Mary online, schedule a wellness coaching session, or book her to present at an upcoming conference or event at www.mary-mccarthy.com