Change. It’s a scary thing. At least to me it is. I have always been freaked out by change. I began to realize I had “issues” with change when I was 12 and I had to transition from my hometown elementary school to a much larger, regional middle school. I could walk to my elementary school, I felt safe and happy there. Middle school was 20 minutes away from home and I was mixed in with a bunch of kids I didn’t know.

I felt the fear and anxiety, but wasn’t sure how to handle it. It manifested itself in various ways, upset stomach, tension through my whole body, insomnia, and general all-over stress. For a little kid, things were way too complicated. I eventually got used to going to middle school and fit in just fine.

The next big change was college. That came with a whole host of other issues. The college years, though, were where I really began to figure out ways to take control of the feelings that came along with major changes in life. By the time I decided to go to graduate school I almost felt a need to prove that I could handle change. I chose Oregon; literally one of the farthest places away from New Hampshire. If you folded a map of the US in half, NH and OR would touch.

I certainly become much tougher by moving so far away and enduring the rigors of academia without the comfort of friends and family. I had to make new friends for the first time since middle school. My skills hadn’t improved much, but I did manage to find some great buddies out there. I’m not sure if my ability to manage change has gotten better or if I have learned to deal with the feelings that come along with the change.

I know that I definitely still feel uneasy and fearful when I anticipate a big change, or when a big change actually happens. I tend to lose my appetite and withdraw. I try to remind myself that without change, there cannot be growth. This concept is helpful for keeping everything in perspective. When helping others create lasting, meaningful change in their lives, this is often something I talk about. If you are unhappy with the way something is going, but you keep doing the same thing day in and day out, how can you expect anything to ever be different, or change? 

Change is difficult and can be very uncomfortable. If you know that change is coming, or want to  make a change in your life, it can be helpful to envision yourself on the other side of the change. How does the view look from that side? Is it making you happy; are you feeling good; are you glad you made the change and can you sustain it?

If unexpected change comes about, it may be a little but more difficult to process. Try to keep perspective and not let it send you into a tailspin. Do your best to find the positive, or the silver lining. Talk about the change and call on others to help you manage your feelings.

We’re not too different from the people we were back in middle school, but by now we should have learned that there will always be change in life. Change we ask for and move toward, and change that sneaks up and blindsides us. We are always works in progress, and change is what shapes us into who we become, so we need to do our best to embrace it and not let it drag us down.