Embracing Change

Fall Leaves Changing ColorChange seems to literally be swirling around me these days. Brown leaves are already dancing around my back yard. The tomato plants are yielding less and less as the days grow shorter. By the end of soccer games, I’m wrapped in a blanket to ward off the chill of the night. The weather, the schedule, even the pace at work is changing as fall rolls into our lives. I don’t know about you, but change can be difficult for me. Even good change catches me by surprise with the upheaval it brings into the fabric of our lives. Here are a few things that I find helpful.

1. Acknowledge the change. Sometimes just a simple thing like sitting on the porch for 5 minutes, and giving myself time and space to acknowledge what is going on gives my brain, body and mind a chance to catch up with each other and is calming.

2. Grieve any losses the change may bring. For some, this is obvious. If you are experiencing an empty nest for the first time, it will be easier to pinpoint your loss. But small changes bring loss as well, and even for good change, this awareness is essential. For example, I love having the kids back in school. I thrive in routine and order that the school schedule brings to our lives. But I lose the chance to have my morning coffee outside in the soft morning light. I lose at least an hour of sleep every night, as I now get up super early so that I can still have my coffee (in the dark) and do my yoga before taking my youngest to school.

3. Celebrate the good things that the change brings. That 10 minute drive to school that results in a mature conversation with an often grumpy teenager. The bag of crisp juicy apples from the local orchard. The beautiful sunset during the soccer game. For me, it helps to keep a “grateful journal” and jot down a few things every night that were specific to the day I just lived.

4. Organize. Especially when the results of the change make life more chaotic and crazy. I find that taking a few minutes to make lists and plan out my week help take a lot of daily pressure off. Simple things like planning meals and then cooking double so I can stick a meal in the freezer for another week or have leftovers for lunches is a big help.

5. Practice Mindfulness. When our body is stressed, we take short, shallow breaths. Something as simple as mindfully breathing, taking deep breaths in and deeper breaths out can instantly reduce stress and slow down our heart rate. It allows us to return to the present with a deeper ability to engage in the moment. Also, drink water! Water helps to flush out cortisol, the hormone produced by stress. Increase your water intake and use those moments to gratefully remember your connection to the earth and all living things.

Change is inevitable but it does not need to knock us over. With a little care, we can navigate change with grace.

Finding Rest

It was nearing the end of the fourth day of sickness. Each day held more travel and I had pushed myself through a whole lot of crazy. Exhaustion held me in its grip and I felt like my land legs had left me when we stopped our travels for a walk down to these boats. There, walking the sand, with the wind gently pushing me on, I breathed in lungfuls of ocean air made warm with dazzling sunlight. I had pushed my body so hard to get to this point, though there were times when I could not push it any further, no matter how much I wanted to.

“Listen to your body” was a much-used phrase in our house when the boys were little. I still use it sometimes, mostly directed at myself these days. Our bodies are incredibly put together. My body knows when I am under stress before my brain even registers the thought and signals to me in the way I breathe and the muscles that wrap my shoulders. If I am listening, I can be my own best friend. I can step away from the chaos and sit in silence with a cup of coffee. I can do yoga to slow down my breathing and stretch the tension out of my muscles. I can journal or talk to a friend, walk in the park or lean into meditation. I can say no to stressful situations. I can give myself a time out. I can walk barefoot through the grass, feeling life itself push against the dry, cracked skin of winter’s feet.

It’s midday now. The Sampans are docked in the sand, the fishermen have laid down their nets, the morning catch of fish is drying in the sunshine. The quiet wraps around me and I breathe it in. I listen, as my body tells me what it needs.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Gerber Photography.