We Can’t Stop Change
One constant thing in life is change. For some, change is exciting and anticipated; for others, change is something to tackle with some apprehension. For many, the knowledge and acceptance that something needs to change comes far before an action is done to change it. The interesting thing is that for any of these scenarios, the reasons for being excited or fearful of change can be due to both positive and negative things. That’s what makes change so interesting and complex.
Change can also be stressful. Even thrill seekers that crave new experiences and get bored when things are monotonous can still run into struggles that change can bring - especially if it’s a change they did not choose or expect. It can be quite difficult to deal with changes that are not planned or happen faster than is comfortable. Examples include children growing up quickly, a loved one passing away unexpectedly, a life-changing medical diagnosis, or a crippling accident.
For some people, change brings feelings of grief. This can be true even when the change was anticipated and their idea. The grief and sadness come from the loss of what is familiar (negative or positive) coupled with anxiety over what is new and unfamiliar. Getting a great job in a new state can be exciting and sad at the same time. High school graduation for a parent can be fulfilling and heartbreaking at the same time.
Researchers studying the change process have found that everyone goes through the same steps or “stages” of change. The first is pre-contemplation. This is when people around them know that a change is needed but the individual has no idea what the change is or what should be contemplated. The next is the contemplation stage. It involves taking the time to think about the change. “How will this affect me? My family? Is this a good change? What are some barriers that will arise?” This is a daunting exercise. Many people never make it past the contemplation stage, which is okay as it may not have been the right change for them. From contemplation the next move is preparation. Preparing involves decision-making. “What steps will I have to take to make it happen? How do I maximize the positive and minimize the negative?” From there it is time to move on to the action stage, putting into practice the steps that were decided upon while preparing for change. Seeking out social and emotional support can be a key strategy for success. Another key strategy is reinforcing the change by congratulating and rewarding yourself. Positive reinforcement is extremely important to help get to the next step which is maintenance. Maintaining change and not slipping back into previous behaviors solidifies the new situation or behavior.
Sometimes, no matter how much you may want the change, the barriers can be overwhelming without help. Some things are too large to tackle on your own and having a person to support and encourage you can be the resource you need for success. Look around at who you have in your life who can and will support you and enlist them in your change process.
At The Center for Human Services, we specialize in helping people change. Whether you are contemplating or ready to take action we can be here for you.