8 Ways To Find Comfort During Change

Surprise isn't always comfort
Life is changing again!

Life is filled with change. We all have to handle the fact that nothing remains the same. The truth is that change that happens to us (without our permission and often without warning) is hardest to survive. But even when we choose to embrace the transition, there are bumps in the road. Here are some thoughts about easing the transitions.

My life, by design, is filled with changes. We are seasonal workers, needing to move every six months or so, and never sure of what is on the horizon. We have chosen to live with fewer things and less regularity. Much of the time, I enjoy the newness and the uncertainty. However, the constant of change wears on me.

Here are ten strategies I have employed to smooth the way and cope with the anxieties that inevitably crop up.

1.  Hold on to something Familiar

Holding coffee mug helps change
Warmth helps with change

When we travel, we have a set of belongings that come with us. They have to fit in our two-door compact car, so we have to be picky about our choices. We love our down comforter, our electric toothbrush, comfortable shoes and a three-ring binder filled with my favorite recipes (yes, it is full of comfort food ideas!). In addition, we only bring one suitcase each of our favorite clothing and personal items. It turns out most people don’t really notice when you wear the same things all the time. The few things we bring are all “old friends.” Our continuing efforts to simplify pay off big time here.

2. Let go of Expectations.

I do research before we head out on our journey and automatically draw mental pictures of what the newest spot will be like. I have to be careful of these expectations. It turns out change is harder to handle when things are not going as I expected. We came up with a saying: “We are on Vacation!” because this reminds us that we have never been here before, that the road is unfamiliar and that is why we are doing this! It is time to be present to what is right in front of us and not what we left behind.

grumpy cat hates change
Change can make me grumpy

3. Ignore negative input.

There are many people who prefer to live in the same house and go to the same job. It is hard for those people to imagine that taking off in random directions could be fun or that change could lead to something better. Because of this, they feel obligated to tell me that what I am doing is a bad idea. It is tempting to listen to them, or even chime in. That’s when I do the next step.

 

4.  Make a List of why I am doing this crazy thing

I write down the reasons I am on the road (or whatever new vision I have created). This has come in useful in the past to get through classes, finish projects or stay in a job long enough to make it to the next step. Some people prefer to draw pictures, make collages, create vision boards or put up sticky notes on their mirrors. We all need reminders that what we are doing is important and why we want what we want. Every now and again I read my notes and ask myself, “Is this still true?  Do I still want this?”  It is okay if the answer is no, but almost always I am still inspired by my goals.

What if the change is not my choice? I focus on who I want to be (and WHY!) while the change is happening and write that down. After all, there are almost always good things that come out of change. We just need to find them.

5. Add structure

When I feel lost, I create to-do lists to get me moving. This for me adds structure, plus I get ridiculous satisfaction from crossing the tasks off. Yes, I am one of those that will add items I have already completed just so I can them off. Other ways to add structure can be making sure you eat at the same times, exercise every day, connect with family or whatever makes you feel more in control of the day in small ways.

change is not comfortable
What!? This isn’t what I asked for!

6. Know that not everything will turn out the way we wanted

The sad thing is challenges occur, even in an exciting, travel filled adventure life. Cars break down, I get tired of being so far from family, weather disrupts our plans, there are bad days at work, people disappoint me. In addition, there are moments I disappoint myself. I accept that those things are a fact of life on this planet and get over it. Eventually.

7. Practice Gratitude

Counting my blessings is a instant way for me to remember all the things going right. I know there are many people who advocate writing down at least three things you are thankful for every day. I am sure it is a good idea and I have seen studies that say that your mental and physical health measurably increase after doing this for several weeks in a row. But I resist this exercise, even though I am a writer in my heart.  Therefore, I prefer to be spontaneously grateful. I am thankful for rainbows, bird songs, cloud formations and hot and cold running water. As a result of noticing all of these, and more, I remember to acknowledge the gifts in my life.

 

Touch helps me cope with change
Keeping in Touch

8. Communicate with my anchor people

Finally, I have several people that I consider my anchors. They are family members and friends who love me. They remind me that I am on an adventure, not an endurance race. Touching base with them frequently helps keep me grounded.

 

“Just when I think I have learned the way to live, life changes.”

Hugh Prather

Reconnecting To Joy – Action

Current political changes feel as if they are out of my control. I think many of us are worried about the future, on both sides of the aisle. When I am afraid, I become paralyzed. I tell myself I am too small to make a difference. I curl up on the couch under the blanket and despair. Yet, little action steps can lead me out of this scared rabbit reaction. Asking questions rather than demanding agreement, reacting with kindness to angry words and even picking up litter on the trail help me remember that I can make a difference in the world, in this small way.

Action Dumbbells
Action Requires Heavy Lifting

The New Year brings a lot of attention on goal setting. These visions are designed to spur us into action, to take steps towards who we want to be. Though goals can motivating, they are intimidating. It is all good to say “I will lose 30 pounds this year” or I will change the world. It is quite another to actually figure out how to do it. Even harder is to sustain the energy to accomplish large goals. I am very good at coming up with ideas, not so good at the follow through.

Oh, I start out well. Going to the gym for the first three days is exhilarating. The problem resides in the fourth through the three hundred and sixty second day. I understand that many great athletes work out every single day. Though, they do vary their routines to be light on some of those days, maintaining the momentum keeps them on track. Plus, the habit of moving every day becomes ingrained.

While I understand this idea, the thought of never taking a day off sounds exhausting. Then I remember the One Day At A Time philosophy of the Twelve Step programs. I don’t have to do this every day. I only have to do this today. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Action Eat Carrots
A carrot a day

With that in mind, I find I can take action on my dreams. Often, I only have time or energy to do one thing a day. But three hundred and sixty five actions can lead to big things. Maybe not a belly that is flatter, but towards a body that is stronger, a retirement account that is larger, a blog that is well-written and a world where kindness is the norm. How are your goals going? Maybe just do one thing today. We can do this together.

“Just For Today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once.”Al-Anon Family Groups

 

Snow Days at Natural Bridges National Monument

Natural Bridges home
Our Natural Bridges Home

After three months of teaser storms, consisting of rain, hail and ice, it began to snow yesterday at Natural Bridges National Monument and it hasn’t stopped. My friends in Estes Park will smile and pat me on the head (they have had MUCH more snow than that), but we have received about a foot of snow in the past 24 hours.

Dave is out plowing the roads while I operated a snow shovel to tackle the sidewalks. The Park workers concentrate on the visitor areas and making sure the roads are as safe as possible. I took care of the residential area, making pathways to the laundry area, the office and the only place in the park where we get occasional cell phone service. Shoveling the sidewalks is rewarding, as I can see the results of my efforts. Although the continually falling snow is currently erasing that progress. Consequently, I foresee more shoveling ahead.

Snow on Kachina Bridge overlook
Kachina Bridge – In The Blowing Snow

This morning, I accompanied Dave on his first snowplow pass over the nine-mile road around the park. This drive allows visitors to visit each of the three natural bridges plus offers beautiful views from the pull-outs. The level of the snow changed as we drove through the park. In some areas, the clouds covered the landscape and, at times, the snow made finding the road a challenge.

 

Natural Bridges snow
Natural Bridges Mesa snow

Then the curves of the road brought us to a spot where the sun was doing its best to peek through. The wind died down and the snow quit for a moment, just long enough to snap a picture.

 

Reconnecting to Joy – Gratitude

Gratitude Journal
Gratitude Journal

The scientific benefits of gratitude have been proven. My life is better when I remember to be grateful. Many advocate using gratitude journals to record why we are thankful for what we have in our lives. So why is it so hard to do? I have started many journals only to let them gather dust on the nightstand. I get tired of writing “I am grateful for my family” even though I AM actually happy they are in my life and do notice this fact often. But writing it down feels like a chore, one for which I am not thankful. So why should I try again?

Studies have shown that writing down a gratitude list even once a week can make dramatic changes in one’s attitude. Those who make the effort to keep a gratitude journal report being happier and more optimistic. They also tend to be able to handle negative life events with greater ease.

Recording the people and events we are grateful for reaps greater benefits than gratitude for material things. This can actually increase our empathy and help us more kind to others on a daily basis. Plus it turns out that relationships need to have a five to one ratio of positive to negative interactions. In other words, for every frown or complaint, we need five smiles and compliments to make the connection work. A gratitude journal can remind us the good parts of being in a relationship (whether it is personal or professional) so we can smile more often.

Gratitude Apps
Download a Gratitude App

I know why I should do this. How can I make sure to create this habit? There are apps to put on my phone (most of them are only a couple of dollars). I can download pages from the internet. Some people have posted beautiful writing prompts to tickle my imagination. Photography can act as a writing prompt or be a gratitude journel of its own. But what appeals to me most is to give myself permission to continue to look for those things I appreciate. I can remind myself to acknowledge those things as they arise and be sure to mention them out loud when I notice them.

Tree of Hearts Gratitude
Love Being Grateful

I will try out the app. After all, why not make my phone work for me for a change. Stayed tuned and I will let you know how this goes. Meanwhile, feel free to share how you remember to count your own blessings. We would all be grateful. 🙂

 

“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” Rumi

Blessings

A blessing of light
Sunset in Utah

December brings in wonderful  holidays. The sentiment remains the same for each of the celebrations:  time with family and friends. These are the true blessings in life. The gatherings are one way of reminding us we are bringing light and warmth into the darkness of winter.

Star burst
Light – A blessing for us all

This time of year invites each of us to be joyous and generous.  It is an opportunity to remember that there is more to life than our daily responsibilities.  Yes, of course this season also adds to the busy-ness of life, bringing a clutter of to-do lists, sometimes unmet expectations and can bring home that not everything in our lives is perfect. Still, it is also time to remember I have friends, family, sustenance and a warm place to sleep each night. I take a deep breathe and I am once again centered and grateful.

candles-1861915__340

 

“Having somewhere to go is home. Having someone to love is family. Having both is a blessing.” – anonymous

 

 

Cairns

Tower of rocks, a cairn
Cairn marking the way

While hiking in Utah, there are few ways to mark the trails.  Some parks use rocks lines along the edge of the path.  Others mark them with twisted branches of juniper.  My favorite method though is those parks that use cairns, a small towers of rocks.  Cairns are organized so you can’t see the total path at once.  You walk to the cairn, pause and look for the next cairn. Sometimes you can see a few markers ahead, but many times the path is cairn by cairn.

One of my favorite author/life coaches is Tama J. My favorite method though is those parks that use cairns, a small towers of rocks.  Cairns are organized so you can’t see the cl-cairntotal path at once.  You walk to the cairn, pause and look for the next cairn. Kieves (http://www.tamakieves.com).  She is a teacher, life coach and someone who inspires me.  One of the tools she uses to help you find your life’s purpose is to “follow breadcrumbs”. A breadcrumb in this case is a small thing that brings you joy, something that fills your heart. Following a breadcrumb of happiness can help you look for the next little thing that you can do to find your way to your true joy.

Valley of the Gods, Utah cairn
Valley of the Gods, Utah

I am still bread-crumbing around, looking for things that may help me define my “purpose.”  I see that concept when hiking from cairn to cairn.  Not being able to see the next one helps to make the journey more fun, an Easter Egg hunt rather than a life or death search for meaning.

I end with a quote from one of my heros:

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” – Dalai Lama

Both Sides

Highway 1, The Florida Keys
Highway 1, The Florida Keys

One of my talents, or curses, is being able to see both sides of an issue.  This has proved to be frustrating to some people as they would like be to be more forceful in my opinions.  It has become a challenge too with this election season.  I am grateful that I have friends on both sides of the fence.  I get to see the good points of each candidate, as well as the never-ended stream of those wanting me to see the bad points.  But the truth is that none of those posts, emails or discussions change my mind.  I bet they don’t change your mind either.

 

pic-mesa-arch

Here in Southeastern Utah, there is a movement to designate 1.9 million acres of land as a new national park called Bears Ears.  This would extend from near the Arizona border north to Moab, from the Colorado river east to the highway that goes from Bluff to Moab.  It is supported by environmentalists, several Native American tribes and archaeologists.  It is opposed by many of the people who live and work here, both Anglo and Native American.  They have lived in this land for generations, they have hunted for their families’ food, played in its valleys and have had unlimited access to it.  I know that oil and mining companies oppose it as well.  I am sure it would be good to preserve even more of Utah for future generations.  I can also be sure it will deeply impact the lives of those who live here.

Our neighbors here have explained to us their view of this issue. I have read about the other side.  Both sides feel strongly about their viewp

Hope
Hope

oint.  This decision will affect so many, and I was getting worried about the end result. Then one person said to me, “But the truth is that, in time, we will become adjusted to any changes and it will be alright.”

With that in mind, we go forward together into this season of change.  Together.