Lately, I have been thinking about how change always seems to be happening, which seems a little confusing in that we generally think of change as a deviation from the normal to establish a new normal. The thing is, the frequency of how often this deviation occurs tends to make me think that change is constant and there is no real normal, rather just routine responses to the constant change, which makes it feel like normal. I think that this is because as we age and our schedules and lives become more and more interconnected and complex, we add so many factors into our lives that at least one of them is in a state of change at any given time. For example, between my co-authors and me, we have had two graduations, a birth, a wedding, a job change, a pending international move, and a host of other smaller events occur over just the past six months. Each of these events marked a change in our lives as it did in the lives of those around us.
Change introduces stress. As a matter of fact, there is a very popular psychiatric test which measures your stress level based on significant events occurring within a limited time frame as a way of defining how the changes in your environment impact your emotional balance because of the stress involved. Likewise, there are studies on the physical impact psychological stress has on the body, and yet, if change is becoming more and more constant, you have to start wondering how you can ever hope to reduce your level of stress. Volumes of books have been written on stress management, but in the end, each individual is pretty much on their own as to how to cope with the stress in their lives. In most cases it works out to a wide spectrum of tools, but I have generally seen them grouped into the following categories:
- Artistic pursuits – There are tons of examples, such as painting, reading, listening to music, performing music, sculpting, etc. I think these are chosen because they speak to our creativity and give us some measure of control in an otherwise chaotic period.
- Physical pursuits – These range pretty wide too. I think these are chosen because they allow us to burn off excess energy and also because of the endorphins that kick in and make us feel better.
- Intellectual pursuits – Generally, I consider these learning new things or training your mind. I think these are chosen because it allows us to dictate and manage a change in ourselves that is internally driven rather than externally imposed.
- Spiritual pursuits – I think these are chosen due to a desire to better understand an order in the chaos, or, from my personal experience, to let go and release things outside of my control in the belief that my Father is good and knows how to deal with the chaos that I don’t understand in ways I could never imagine. It brings a peace from release of the chaotic into trusted hands.
- Escape pursuits – These generally are self-medication activities that we all use to make ourselves feel better, whether it be pharmacological, dietary (e.g., “comfort” foods, etc.), shopping, binge watching television episodes, or the other many ways we try to distract ourselves. These are generally done because they make us forget about the change and generally release some type of endorphin or other chemical biologically to make us feel better.
I am sure there are others, but these are the primary ones I have used myself. Frankly, I think having an array of tools available is a good thing and would encourage you all to start to identify the many different options you have available to you. The main thing they all have in common is that they all provide a break in time similar to the eye of a storm, where there is a pause in the chaos and a peace in the midst of the churn. So, as you move forward into all of the change you will experience just this week, take some time and look for opportunities to find those pauses and enjoy the break in the chaos.