Coping with sudden change

Right at the end of 2014 I found out that I did not secure a scholarship to continue with my PhD in 2015. Needless to say this news put a little spanner in the works! However my reaction was nice confirmation that I must actually be getting somewhere with my intent to live Slow principles. I reflected on the value of coping constructively with sudden change; it is an important life skill in general and essential for change leaders.

After I received the news, I waited for that feeling of overwhelming stress but I was pleasantly surprised that I remained calm, didn’t criticise myself and switched to constructive thoughts about opportunities.

I was curious as to what was going on internally that allowed me to react constructively so I made that point of observing myself. Here’s what I learnt about coping with sudden change:

  • Mindfulness is crucial to check in with yourself and watch for negative thoughts.
  • Go for a walk and make a cup of tea. At times like these there are only so many thoughts that are helpful. Get out of your head and into the sensations of your body and the world around you to keep yourself grounded.
  • Make no decisions, do nothing (except write!). I remind myself that it is worthwhile to stay in the negative space of not knowing and be ok with the mess.
  • Focus on relationships. Who can help you and how you can help others? One part of me wanted to flee to finding a safe ‘normal’ job but I reminded myself that I am on a path doing what allows me to contribute to the world.
  • Be grateful and look at the big picture. A lot of heavy stuff went down that week globally, in Australia and in my local community, reminding me that I still have so much. Don’t get self-absorbed and relax in the liberation that comes from knowing you are just one part of the bigger picture.
  • Keep in mind that the hard times in life can be sources of the most profound and valuable insights. I asked myself what is the silver lining. This allowed me the opportunity to critically question if doing a PhD was what I should be doing right now, not just something that I went with because it seemed to fall into place that way. The answer still seems to be yes, and now I know I really mean that.
  • Make time and space to slow yourself down. Thoughts and questions will continue to stir so sit in mindfulness meditation for as long as it take to re-centre yourself and return to just being.

Change and surprises are part of life more and more these days. Being centred and mindful will make a difference in whether the change is one you will benefit from.

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