It’s funny how we take things for granted- our life circumstances, our health, our relationships. But the truth is, in a matter of an instant all of that can change. It can all be lost. In fact, there is one thing that we can say for certain in a world that’s riddled with just the opposite- the only definite in our world is change.
It was the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, who said it best: “The only constant in life is change.” Yet, every time life sweeps the rug from beneath our feet, so to speak, it takes us to our knees. It’s like we don’t see it coming, although, life experience would most certainly tell us that it was bound to happen.
Truthfully, it’s only when change occurs that we realize the value in a moment that’s been lost. Really, it’s quite ironic how the most insignificant things can be of such value when we look back.
I remember being completely ah struck by the lights, the smoke in the air, the massive buildings towering above as we drove thru. I was nineteen years old, and to say the least, less than responsible in my youth. I was riding shotgun in my boyfriend’s 1987 Nissan Pathfinder. Let me tell you, I loved that car.
I don’t know what it was about the Smurfit-Stone Mill that caught my eye that summer’s night. But, in that moment, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I was truly drawn to it.
It would be roughly six years later, in the heat of the great recession, that the first words would be spoken of the paper mill closing. Smurfit-Stone, an industry giant, provided lucrative jobs for over 400 workers in Missoula County. The mill had been in operation for over fifty years, leaving so many grappling with the loss of their entire livelihoods in matter of an instant.
Today, you can still feel the heavy energy in the air when you drive by the mill. Up until recently, it had stood frozen in time, just as it did on the last day of its operations. The day so many workers clocked out for the last time. Truthfully, the entire town of Frenchtown has never really recovered, most of its residents were employed there.
I still drive by it from time to time when I want to get out of the house and think. It’s funny how as you get older, the seconds, minutes, hours, days- they all start to blur together. But, sixteen years later, that moment of driving through the mill has stood apart. Who would have thought?
The reality of what happened at the mill in Frenchtown, and the grief those workers experienced, bares a tragic parallel to many people’s current reality. This pandemic has left in its wake a bitter reminder of how fragile our world really is. Every moment we never thought would be of value, suddenly is.
Just as with the great recession, so many have lost their jobs, their businesses, and the glue that holds their daily lives together. But on a level unique to the challenges this virus has left us facing, many have felt a deep sense of loss accompanied with the need for social distancing.
We have been left ah struck by the rapid change to a life that we once took for granted. And, we’re starting to realize the value in moments that before seemed insignificant. Something as small as shaking the hand of a business associate, hugging a friend, or traveling out of state to visit family is no longer an acceptable daily practice.
Those faithful, “lifers”, at Smurfit-Stone, never thought the day would come that they wouldn’t clock in and out at the mill. The day that they wouldn’t greet their coworkers at the water cooler at lunch. But, it happened- their lives were violently shaken up and turned upside down.
Everything comes to an end at some point or another. As it should though, because most great things are birthed from difficult endings.
Today, we’re faced with a new challenge as life slowly returns to “normal”. That challenge is to accept things as they are, take things one day at a time, and let go of what we thought our lives should be.
For those who are having a particularly hard time with this, we have a few pointers to help you embrace the acceptance that today’s world demands.
So, without further ado, here are five tips to help you cope with change.
Celebrate the Positive
It’s easy to get caught up in all the negative. To get tangled up in future tripping or to focus on all the things you’ve lost. But, retrain your brain not to do that. Instead, think of all the positives in your current life and the great things that could blossom from change.
Often, great things are born from painful endings. As it should be though, without those rough endings, most of us would go on our merry way, happy or not, with the same old mundane, redundant script of our lives.
If you’re struggling with seeing the positive, try taking five minutes out of each day to write a list of the things that you’re grateful for. Not only will this help you to be happier, it will also help you to habitually move to a more positive frame of reference.
Manage Your Stress
Honestly, managing stress is much easier said than done. The truth is, we can’t always control what life throws at us, but we can manage how we respond to it. Making a conscious effort to do the things that fill your cup, such as exercise, practicing hobbies, or simply just getting enough sleep and eating well, can make a big difference. By doing these things, you create an impenetrable buffer between yourself and the world that stress can’t as easily permeate.
The problem is, however, that culturally we’re conditioned to be productive. To put everything else before our own self-care. In fact, many people carry around the false belief that self-care is really a selfish act. But, in reality, it’s not selfish at all.
If you want to weather change, you need to take the time to take care of you. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and do the things that keep you healthy and happy!
In general, there are two ways that people cope with change. They either choose to escape it and avoid dealing with the circumstance’s life has thrown at them, or, they face it head on and deal with the garbage that life has tossed their direction.
When we escape, we do things that cause us to steer clear of confronting whatever brings us discomfort. This can manifest in a multitude of ways, including addiction and avoidance.
To illustrate this, think of the person who switches careers every few months or hops residences from place to place. Or, maybe it’s the lady who refuses to open the medical bills that keep pouring in through the mail, or the man who sits alone at the bar every night.
Truthfully, the best way to cope with any of life’s challenges is to face them head on. We must face change to process and accept it. Change isn’t something we can fight, so we must embrace it and adapt to living with it.
If life has really thrown a wrench at you and you find yourself unable to heal or move on, you may need to seek some support. On a personal level, spend time with friends and family. Find someone who you trust that you can talk to.
However, also know that professional help is out there. There is no shame in seeking support from a therapist. Too often, shifts in life can lead to larger mental health struggles, such as bouts of depression and anxiety. This is particularly true when we fight the ebb and flows that our world inevitably brings.
Are you looking for more content to guide you on your path to a happy, healthy life? Check out the rest of our blog and don’t forget to follow us on social media. We can be found at youthdynamicsmt on Instagram, or People of Youth Dynamics and Youth Dynamics of Montana on Facebook.