Adapting to Change

Adapting to Change

Change isn’t everyone’s favorite word. It reeks of discomfort and imposition. Many people tell me they dread changes or feel they have had too much change in recent months and years. Often, the search for strategies to keep things the same also serves to keep people stuck. How can we get beyond this? A favorite yoga teacher of mine used to tell me, whenever things moved very quickly: ADAPT.  “ Adapt and find your balance again” she would say.

Life forms, including humans, prefer homeostasis.  We seek sameness, even-ness and balance. From our internal systems to our emotions, we like a certain amount of predictability and control.  When our bodies, our homes, our world isn’t stable, we can feel overwhelm and a pressure to control the events ( and people) around us.

Control is one of the most common methods we use to meet the challenge of change. However, in many ways, control is the enemy of adaptation.  Control requires a willful override where adaptation accepts and includes the change in a person’s arsenal to finding balance.

Nature can teach us much about adaptation.  From the trees that grow around obstacles and towards the light to animal who alter their behavior as the seasons change.  Nature has mastered adaptation.

As humans we can take from nature’s playbook and let go of what has passed in order to embrace the new. A first step in this process involves accepting what is. Accepting, which is not the same as loving and also not the same as resignation.  Acceptance simply says “right now, this is what’s happening”. Perhaps the old boss at work has left and you are adapting to a new one. Or your neighbors have moved and the house next door is for sale.  Your child has moved into the dorm or the beloved dog has passed on to the eternal dog park in the sky. All of these changes include accepting the ending of what was and adapting to the new.

“But I don’t like that hole in my life where the old was,” you may say.  “I liked that old, predictable boss.  I wanted my kid to stay here for at least a few more years, etc.”

That hole in your life is place to breathe and reflect. Nature abhors the vacuum and will soon fill it. Before it does, though, you have a limited amount of time in which to breathe, become aware and accept what is. You can choose responses and affect your own changes, even if the overall change was not of your doing. This is the processor adapting.  It is stopping, being aware, making incremental adjustments that will bring you back to balance in a new way.

About Nicola Simmersbach, PsyD LMFT LPCC