Regardless of how well or not well you think you did at adapting to change in the last year, the fact that you’re here reading this shows me that you made it. Congratulations!
We’re still not quite be out of the woods yet, and making plans (especially big wedding ones, particularly if you’ve had them dashed hard before) can feel really scary. What if you book something, get really excited about it and then find that everything has to be cancelled or postponed again?
I hear you honey, those thoughts are real and valid. It’s a tough time to try and get a big mixed generation group together (“Auntie Doris is 98, we can’t have her in the same room as little Jimmy’s 5-year-old-potential-germ-carrying-sticky-fingers!”) But here’s the thing, change is happening to us all the time.
We may wish the hands of time to stop turning but unless you happen to have Bernard’s watch*, we all have to deal with those calendar pages whipping away. (*For those of you who were not a small child in Britain in the 90s, this is an obscure reference to a BBC programme where a boy could stop time with his watch so as to get up to adventures and mischief and still be home in time for tea.)
Life is change. We must deal with changes in our relationships, mental health, communities, finances, physical health, job… there’s not a single place in our lives that isn’t subject to change. The problem is we need a balance of familiar and new, otherwise things feel incredibly stressful (it’s called Future Shock). 2020 was too much change, too quickly and that’s when many of us struggle to cope.
This is where resilience comes in. Researchers used to think that resilience was genetic. We all know someone who manages to cope with anything, right? We all used to believe that some people were just more able to cope with change than others. However, what the research has discovered is that resilience can be taught. If you haven’t heard, it turns out that our brains are malleable and we’re able to develop new neural pathways all the time. Look up neuroplasticity, it’s very cool. This scientific breakthrough means the saying is wrong, you can teach an old dog new tricks. Hurrah!
The question is, what does best practice in coping with change look like? (No, there’s no wine involved!) If you’re wobbly about change, here are a few healthy practices for increasing your level of resilience.
Concentrate on what you *can* control
Too often we spend time obsessing over things we can’t control, such as politics (outside of a voting window), the economy, traffic, the past, the weather, other people’s reactions. This is a recipe for feeling stressed.
The key is to shift our focus onto things we *do* have control over. Things such as our reaction to events, making a contingency plan and assessing where we invest our time and effort. When you find yourself spending too much time outside of your circle of control, bring it back. You’ll find that you feel better and more able to cope when you’ve got a handle of things you can have an impact on.
Practise self-care after a loss
The thing about change is that when plans change, there can be a type of grief. This is especially true when it comes to planning a wedding, because often we’ve spent years dreaming about it and/or hours arranging everything from the grand entrance down to the tiniest of décor details. If and when you feel a loss, the key is not to push those disappointed or upset feelings away.
Resilient people feel their feelings fully so they can healthily process them and let them go (with support if needed from a friend or mental health professional). Practise being kind to yourself especially during times of change. When you feel sad, you’re worth being kind to. Parenting yourself is a skill resilient people excel at. So, plan something nice for yourself. Allow yourself time to get over it. Change can be really, really hard.
Stop black and white thinking
Our brains LOVE binary thinking and will happily categorise anything into ‘good’ or ‘bad’. However, life is mainly made up of grey areas, so this type of thought pattern is very unhelpful. The reality is we never know whether the outcome of change will be better or worse. Sometimes the most wonderful unexpected things occur from change, so try and stay upbeat and roll with it. I also love Marie Forleo’s idea that ‘Everything is figureoutable.’
Practise staying present
Our minds also LOVE being in the past or the future. Imagining an alternative reality to the one we’re in is actually an incredible thing that human beings can do. However, it’s often damaging to our mental health because our minds are wired for survival, not happiness. We are very drawn to negatives and so our mind wandering regularly ends up in catastrophising.
Hands up if you’ve ever found yourself thinking the worst? Yup, everyone. This is your brain *trying* to be helpful by telling you that it’s ‘preparing you for anything’, but it’s really not. We cannot read the future so we must learn to stay with the only thing that’s real, the present.
From experience, it’s really worth investing in a mindfulness-based stress reduction course (MBSR). I used to be a terrible over-thinker, much to the detriment of my mental health. Learning mindfulness properly with a teacher was game-changing in giving me the tools to properly manage my mind. This is something very few of us are ever taught, something I find totally wild! If cost is a barrier, I recommend Headspace App and reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
See change as an opportunity to work out your priorities
If your house was on fire, you’d soon learn what you valued and wanted to save. The same can be said of all the changes we’ve had to deal with recently. When the chips are down, what’s the most important thing you want to hold on to in your wedding plans? Once you’ve got one, two or three non-negotiables, your job becomes simple. How can you make a plan that incorporates those things regardless of what happens? Everything else can fall by the wayside and you can stay cool as a cucumber.
ABOUT HARRI ROSE
Harri Rose is a coach, writer and Head of Community at Anti Diet Riot Club. Her work focuses on life after diets and she writes about all things body acceptance, pleasure, self-compassion and joy – these are all the things she calls WONDER. Her first book ‘You Are Enough’ is out now (Octopus Publishing). Get your free introduction to her book at harrirose.com/signup or say hi on Instagram @harri_rose_