Timely Tips: How to Maneuver Through Sudden Change

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Like a tornado, sudden change can pick you up and spin you around. When that happens, how do you get your feet back on the ground? The following tips provide some useful guidelines, whether you respond first with your mind or your emotions.

1. Tip: To move forward in times of sudden change, first take a step back.

Sudden change catches you off guard, so it's very easy to make mistakes. Often it takes time to fully understand exactly what happened, how it happened, and all the ways it will affect you. For this you need a clear head and an overview.

So resist the temptation to rush in without thinking. Give yourself time to collect your wits and gather facts. By taking a step back, you can see the big picture. Then you gain the perspective to make well-considered decisions.

2. Tip: When confronted with sudden change, keep it simple and take small steps.

Sudden change changes you. Your entire outlook is disrupted until you learn how best to cope with your new reality. Initially, you may shut down emotionally; this helps you remain in coping mode long enough to meet current demands.

At first, attend only to immediate responsibilities. Allow your protective shield to remain in force until you can take time for yourself. Your time frame shortens, which is appropriate. Only deal with the necessities at present, and let the big picture emerge before committing yourself further.

3. Tip: In stressful times, let off steam before you act.

Since sudden change appears without warning, you may quickly shift into "emergency" mode. Maybe you don't automatically focus on coping, but instead feel flooded by intense feelings. It's helpful not to rush in spurred by the heat of the moment! For better results, start consciously releasing intense responses. This lowers your sense of urgency. Finding a secure, relatively soundproof place to vent your feelings may be helpful. Others find a physical release preferable, such as demanding physical exercise, or pounding a cushion.

How do you vent your feelings safely and effectively? Notice what works best for you. Experiment now, before faced with a major challenge. Perhaps selecting a few options from a broad range might help, such as yoga, journaling, racquetball, and writing letters that you don't send. Your immediate goal is to reduce stress by taking the top off strong reactions.

End this activity by "closing up" in a way that grounds you and restores a sense of perspective. This may take the form of affirmations, or consciously introducing your rational voice. You can explore the issues later.

4. Tip: An attitude of gratitude supports balance and resilience.

Gratitude in times of sudden change is not denying the existence of problems and losses. Instead, you are mobilizing yourself by putting things in perspective and refusing to be overwhelmed. When you call to mind all you are grateful for, you affirm the totality of your life experience, and this generates a healthy perspective.

Create a book of "gratitudes". Each day, record 3 things that you feel grateful for. Include your role in generating this positive experience as an added bonus! Ending your day with this exercise is especially helpful. The benefits may extend directly to your sleep and into your next day's outlook. As you restore balance to your life through gratitude, your decision-making will benefit.

5. Tip: Use a double column to sort things out.

Sudden change is very disorienting. Because your landscape has changed dramatically, it may take time for you to fully grasp what lies within your control, and what must simply unfold. This is no small task! You may have trouble reaching a consensus with others about what is possible to do. Simply do your best. Try to leave space for your understanding to evolve, so that you don't become locked into a course of action prematurely.

Consider creating double column list. In column #1, list what lies within your control. In the second, list what must simply unfold. Break the tasks in the first column into action steps. For column #2, list ways you can take care of yourself and loved ones as your new landscape takes shape. Although you may have little to no power over what appears in your second column, a positive attitude will help you discern new paths of opportunity.