Change Is Inevitable: How to Manage Your Anxiety Around It
"May You Live in Interesting Times"
You probably have heard the above and know that it is intended as a curse. And do we ever seem to be living in interesting times these days. There are daily new national developments in our country that cause anxiety and dread for many. The nonstop avalanche of news sources does nothing to help our nervous systems. In addition to this, there are the unwanted changes we dread on more personal and local levels. Your work may not feel secure, you may feel like you are one step away from a serious health scare, or fear that your boyfriend will leave you and you'll be all alone. Life can become overwhelming and fearful on many levels.
Anxiety is About Control
The experience of anxiety is often about wanting to control outcomes, predict the future, and keep the unknown away. Anxiety does serve a purpose - when we notice it and it motivates us to problem solve, prepare, and make positive changes it can be very useful. But it becomes problematic when it shows up no matter what we do, when it is a constant voice in our heads no matter what preparations we may have made. Anxiety that leaves us in a permanent state of panic, fear and dread doesn't help and actually doesn't do anything to slow down the inevitable change that occurs in life.
Rethink Your Relationship to Change
Think about a specific aspect of your life where change is inevitable. Your physical health is a good one to consider. Ultimately we are all destined for a very significant physical change - we will die. And before that happens, we will have normal and expected aging processes changing our bodies and unexpected illnesses and injuries also causing changes in our health.
Now consider what is in your control: things like your diet, the amount of exercise you get, and looking both ways when you cross the street. But there is a great deal that you cannot control about your health or your physical state of being - you cannot guarantee that you will not get sick, get injured, etc.
This is where shifting how we relate to change can be helpful. It is possible to continue to work hard to improve your life while accepting the reality of inevitable change. Note that lessening resistance to change is not the same as resignation. You still wholeheartedly move your life forward while accepting that change will continue.
Lessen Your Resistance to Change
Pick something specific, like your physical health. Notice what it feels like when you resist the idea that your body will change and age and eventually you will die. You may notice your body tense up, negative thoughts appear and you might feel dread. Now, take a deep breath, consider that some things are in your control and others aren't. See if you can relax your resistance around this inevitable change that will happen in your body, that there are things outside of your control. Keep breathing. How does this feel? Do you notice more space or lightness, perhaps your mind calming a bit?
When resistance shows up, it can be helpful to consider a statement like this:
This is changing...
I can't prevent it from changing...
I can accept that it will change and still do everything I can to help it go well.