Saturday, 8 March 2014

Change: T2 article dated 9th March 2014

Humans are supposedly one of the most adaptive species; we all are biologically wired for change. Be it our bodies or our surroundings, change is the only constant. Life gives us enough opportunities to hone our skills to adapt to change — a promotion, a new job, getting married, having a child.
Yet we often find change uncomfortable or difficult. We resist it or shy away from it.
Fear of the 'unknown' grips us and the known devil seems more preferable. We find ourselves stuck in unrewarding relationships, depressing jobs, unsuitable places.
Our comfort zone becomes our cocoon where we find security at the risk of stagnation. Of course this comfort zone gets the better of us eventually; we get bored, we lose our aliveness. So on the one hand, we have this need for security; on the other, as intelligent beings, we need to learn and grow constantly. We need to be on our toes so that we are fully engaged in life and ' present' in every moment. Staying within our comfort zone, we slip into a state of inertia.
Prof Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago pointed out that we need challenges in our life. To feel happy, alive and excited or, as he describes it, to feel 'in the zone' our skill sets and the challenges need to be optimally balanced. Depending on the dynamics between these two components, there are different outcomes. If a challenge is met by the full use of your skill sets, you may feel 'arousal', excitement and 'flow'. When the challenge does not fully engage your skill sets, you may feel 'apathy', 'boredom' and often meaninglessness of life.
When the challenge is greater than your skill sets, it may lead to 'anxiety', ' worry' and stress.
So whether you acknowledge your life as a journey or think it's a hamster wheel or a roller- coaster ride, every now and then try to prepare yourself for change, and embrace change. If you practice being comfortable with change, when you actually face change — which you will sooner or later — you will be better equipped to handle it. Here are six steps to keep in mind... 

Change your perception about 'change': 
Change is not bad. It's an opportunity to learn. It might exasperate you initially as you are learning new skills, but if you hold on and trust yourself you will master the art and it will be rewarding.
Challenge your comfort zone: Keep a change diary. Every now and then, give yourself new challenges consciously. Pick up a new hobby, learn a language, and set new attainable goals. Make an effort to come out of your comfort zone. For example, if you are shy or introverted, once in a while push yourself to socialise, maybe go for a party even at the risk of feeling awkward. Give yourself a pat on the back for your effort to step out irrespective of the outcome.

Avoid avoidance: 
Don't fall prey to your mind's avoidance skills to escape change. Negate the excuses consciously and use your decision to come out of your comfort zone and acknowledge change.

Focus on solutions: 
Do not allow yourself to feel like a 'victim' of a change. Instead take charge and be proactive to learn the new skills required to adapt to the change. Be a part of the solution. Trust yourself and enjoy this learning period. Learn to relax, learn to let go of old habits. If you have already trained yourself to cope with small changes, you will find it easier to deal with bigger ones. If you have not, then have faith that life has already trained you to be in charge in the face of change.

Take stock of the new situation: 
Look at the changed situation in a non- biased manner. Avoid drawing parallels to known situations.
Understand the need of the situation. Let go of your past strategies and rules because they may not be applicable in this new situation.

Be kind to and patient with yourself:
Last and most importantly, be kind and patient to yourself. We all have a different pace to adapt to change.

Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches Share your problems with them at dr.sangbarta@ gmail. com

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