Health & Medicine

Only change is constant

I was saddened to learn that the independent bookstore Novel Experience is closing its doors. I’ve known the owners, Jim and Christine Hill, for decades and have treasured the countless visits I’ve made to the store.

While I mourn the end of a downtown icon, I also realize that nothing lasts forever. A new computer system is installed at the office. A home gets built on the vacant lot next door to your home. A best friend moves far away.

Change is a defining force in all of our lives. Events and features are in a constant state of flux. The sooner we make peace with this phenomenon, the more easily we can shift from one stage to the next.

Change is not an easy process. It requires that we break out of well-worn habits, that we learn new ways of maneuvering through our days. Even good changes, such as a promotion at work or the purchase of a new motor home, are inherently stressful and exact stiff tolls from our psyches.

The inevitable forces of change require vigilance and preparation. We save money so that our kids can go to college. We build homes that will withstand California’s earthquakes.

We may even do our best to avert its predictable onslaught. The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County works tirelessly to protect local lands for future generations.

Some folks are able to manage changes with nary a hitch. No matter how many curve balls come at them they always stay in the game. Others, however, are less resilient. They’re apt to feel defeated and bitter when their paths are forced to veer in new directions.

Researchers at the University of Georgia studied 244 men and women older than 100. They identified four traits — optimism, physical activity, involvement in life and acceptance of loss — that increased their subjects’ resilience to change.

Grappling with change has its benefits, too. The neurological processes used in learning another language or mastering a new technology may stave off Alzheimer’s and keep mental acuity sharp.

It also keeps us current. When we stop the process of adapting, we stop caring about what’s happening around us. We lose interest in events and products. We become more entrenched and rigid in our ways.

We may rationalize to ourselves that we can manage without the newest gadgets. Or that life was better when we were in college. But that mode of thinking has serious repercussions. It means we’re losing ground. Our grandchildren will be using iPads in kindergarten. No one will care what we think.

Life moves relentlessly forward. We’re not going to stop the train. We can choose to be passengers on the journey and adapt to new situations as they arise. Or we can watch it from the sidelines as it moves further and further away.

Tips to ease transitioning

Need help coping with change? Start with these suggestions:

Recognize when change is happening. Sometimes change is obvious; you’re starting a new job or being deployed. At other times it’s more subtle, like helping a loved one downsize to a smaller house.

Accept your situation. Let go of any judgments. Realize where you are at the moment and find a measure of peace.

Develop a plan of attack. There are new tasks to complete and new strategies to employ. Deciding what you need to do will focus your energies and provide a sense of control.

Keep a positive attitude. Your mindset will determine how successfully you adapt. Avoid dwelling on the past or on things you wish were different. Replace negative thoughts with calmer, productive ones.

Find the blessings in your new life. They’re always present.

Manage your stress. Change is always stressful. Allow ample time to rest, eat healthy food and exercise.

Set some new goals. Things are different so it’s time to alter your course. Decide what’s important to you now and in which directions you want your life to go.

Be open to new things. Meet new people. Become involved in new activities. Get a new pet. This time in your life may have a different look. Allow that to be OK.

Trust yourself. Yes, change is unnerving. But life will resume a new normal. Know that things will fall into place and your next phase will begin to unfold.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com

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