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How to Adapt to Unexpected Changes in Life

by Alexandra Gusinsky,
Registered Psychotherapist

November 2020

 

We all admit that the world is going through a very intense process of transformation and reboot. That transformation has impacted all the processes: financial, economical, social, and political. We can’t predict what the world will be in the future, but we clearly understand that the world is rapidly changing.

Therefore, at this time  it is very useful to bring to our attention the five stages of reaction to the inevitable:

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Stage 1- Denial


Stage 2- Anger


Stage 3- Bargaining


Stage 4- Depression


Stage 5- Acceptance



The Denial Stage

Denial can be manifested in many ways. The most popular is clinging to a strong belief that everything will be the same as before. If you find yourself saying something like: "everything will come back as usual, and that’s just for a while" - it’s quite possible that you are keeping your eyes closed in an attempt not to see the changes that have already happened.

What is the hidden emotion behind this stage? This emotion is Fear.

When we are not ready to face our fears, it’s easier to choose denial. Let’s admit: we are afraid of the losses that these changes bring.

What can we do in this situation?

Let’s take a piece of paper, a pen and write down “ I am afraid to lose....”

Honestly, name everything you are afraid to lose and then go item by item and ask yourself from a position of an outside observer –WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I DON’T HAVE IT IN MY LIFE? Try to give a few answers to each question.

Keep in mind: Fear is a blocking emotion. The denial stage can take months, sometimes years, and that’s why it is important to make an effort to quickly get out of this stage.

One of the techniques to help get out of this stage is to get angry.

You can scroll through your head the list of everything you are afraid to lose as you are running or doing other physical activities, till your brain shouts: What the hell! You can turn on the music that will give you an angry drive. Your goal is to transform fear into Anger.

 

The Anger Stage

woman-holding-angry-banner-cover-her-faceAnger can occur when we feel threatened at some level or experience loss. These days, when we realize that we live in new and unclear conditions, we start to protest, feel anger and frustration. Don’t suppress these feelings, feel them and that will help you to avoid the accumulation of suppressed anger. If you don’t allow yourself to feel the anger, it accumulates. You can become very reactive and that can affect your relationships with your family members, friends and colleagues. Another dangerous aspect of accumulated anger is when you direct it towards yourself and start to blame yourself.  What can we do with this anger? We can redirect and reframe it. Here are some suggestions on how to do it:

Allow yourself to feel angry at the situation. You can let it all out on the paper. In some cases, accumulated anger can come out with tears. Our goal is to get access to these feelings.

Ask yourself:

  • Where in my body do I feel anger?

  • If my anger had a colour, what would it be?

  • What is the temperature of my anger (if it had one)?

  • If the anger could sound, how would it sound?

By answering these questions you form a very detailed image of the anger and in your mind you can transform it into an arrow (or a hook or a loop) and send that energy towards your goals. It is a technique from NLP called reframing. Reframing often brings clarity to the situations that are currently causing us real stress and help us analyze clearly and confidently so that we can see how to handle present circumstances.  These days, when most of us can only control a maximum of one week at a time, it is important to send this energy towards short-term goals – three, five, seven days ahead.

Another well-known way to diffuse the anger energy is through physical activity.

 

The Bargaining Stage

The bargaining stage includes all kinds of agreements that we are making with ourselves.  When there is too much chaos outside, the best way to balance it is through inner discipline. That way you can reach some sort of balance. On a positive note, if you find yourself at this stage it is already ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’.

Any agreement that you can make with yourself will work because it will create discipline in your mind and will give you a sense of control in those areas of your life where you can actually have it. In the present world situation your sleeping schedule, healthy nutrition and physical activity are really life saving. Try to fill your life with healthy rituals like meditation, yoga, jogging, or running.

However, we need to admit that the next stage is inevitable.

 

The Depression Stage

DepressionHere, I want to point out that we are not talking about clinical depression, rather than a psychological situation when you feel utterly discouraged or frustrated. Why is this stage inevitable? Anger is a secondary emotion. Typically, one of the primary emotions, like sadness, can be found underneath the anger. That comes from the experience of loss, disappointment or discouragement.

In other words, anger very often transforms into sadness.

Keep in mind: this state is very close to acceptance. It is always darkest before the dawn.

 

The Acceptance Stage

We cannot change anything

If you want to be helpful to yourself and others, you need to get to this stage. What makes it so important to move from feeling fear, anger and sadness to the emotionless acceptance? Our brain is designed in a way that allows us to be either emotional or logical. The neocortex is responsible for reasoning and conscious thought, while the limbic system is in charge of our emotional responses These two systems don’t work together very well. That is why it's so important to feel all of our feelings.

When a traumatic event happens - we need to grieve. By feeling our feelings, we give respect and validation to what we consider as a loss or losses.  Allow that process to happen and see for yourself how it feels. 

 

Alexandra-8-1I hope you enjoyed this article.

Please let me know if you need help or have additional questions.

Book a FREE Consultation

Alexandra Gusinsky

 

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