Change has a bad reputation.
As a general rule, humans aren’t big fans of change. We like control, predictability, knowing and understanding. Our lizard brains tell us that something new means danger or the added stress of having to adjust. So we fight it. We tell change no. We put energy into maintaining status quo or staying the same. Usually, it works for a little while but eventually we end up putting more energy into staying the same than we would have if we had just gone with the flow and changed.
Ironically, usually, change is good for us. Breaking from our routines let’s us grow, helps us think creatively and empowers us to take on new experiences. Sounds great on paper right? For a lot of us it is a lot harder to accept change in the moment. So how do we do it? We practice. Below I’ve included the Who, What, When, Where, Why & How system to make processing change tolerable and fun.
A system to help us adjust.
Below is a breakdown of the who, what, when, where, why and how system I use to adapt to new information.
First identify who owns the change. You may not have made the decision that triggered this change but you can reclaim control and determine what you do from this point forward.
Then, identify what is the change? What can I control? What can I not control?
Next, identify when this change needs to take place. When do I need to know what I want to do about the change and when are the important dates around this change? Bonus points for asking what the repercussions are for delaying the change (in my case it is usually self-inflicted discomfort).
Now, we get to tap into our bodies and ask where we feel the hesitation to making the change? Where are other emotions coming up around this change? Let yourself feel all your feelings around the change – don’t repress them. Just identify where they live in your body and acknowledge them.
Once we have met our feelings we move into the toddler stage. Ask yourself why? And ask it a lot. Why is this making me uncomfortable? Why do I not want to make the change?
If I’m still having trouble identifying why I’m hesitating or what is making me uncomfortable about the change, I take a break and try something else and preferably something new. Trying new things shows us what change feels like for us and allows us to tap into beginner’s mind to find creative solutions.
Now that I’ve got my Who, What, When, Why, Where I practice the How. How can I accept this change gracefully – bonus points for how can I make it fun.
Let’s apply it with an example.
Let’s say your roommate gets a new job out of state and they are moving in two months. You adore your roommate and have a very comfortably symbiotic relationship with them. Let’s apply the process.
Who does this effect? You, your roommate, the relationship you have with them. You may not have made the decision but you now get to own what happens from here.
What is the change? Getting a new roommate to help pay the rent. Having to allocate time to meeting a new roommate. Adjusting to another person living with you.
When does the change take place? The change starts now emotionally but physically your roommate will be leaving in two months. This gives you time and space to make a plan. Come up with a way to recruit a new roommate and process the loss or grief of the one you have leaving you.
Now that we have covered the timeline we tap into ourselves. Where are we struggling to accept this change? Where do your thoughts and feelings go while thinking about this change? You may feel loss over your current roommate, anger for the situation changing, anxiety over meeting a new person. Don’t judge yourself – there is no right or wrong. Feel all your feels and let them out.
Now that you know what you feel and where you feel it ask yourself why like a toddler. Why am I resistant to this change? Why don’t I want to make this change? In this example it may be because you really don’t want to have to interview or get to know new roommates.
How am I going to accept this change? By looking for a new roommate and maintaining the important relationship with the one I had. How will I make this fun? Maybe set up a funny craigslist ad or ask friends to help you come up with ideas on how to include your personality and fun qualities into looking for a new roommate.
Everyone processes change differently – and every change is a little different so feel free to play with the process or shake it. I hope this helps and if you need any help making a change plan – reach out! firstname.lastname@example.org
*I am not a therapist. If you are struggling with your mental health during a major change I implore you to reach out to a mental health professional.