The night before a big change, I usually don’t sleep very much. If I’m being honest I’m kind of a mess for several days before and the bigger the change, the longer my dread lasts. You see, for me it’s the before that is so much worse than the actual change. Once things get started I’m usually excited and reveling in the novelty of new beginnings. But the before time, when I know the storm is on the horizon and the air is still and pregnant with what’s to come…that’s when I lose my shit. I spend most of my time obsessively trying to control and plan thing, punctuated with brief periods of vividly imagining impending doom and disaster. Needless to say, my husband really loves this part of our lives.
I think most of it comes from feeling out of control and wanting to anticipate change. I’m a forward thinker and planner and I naturally live in my head a few steps ahead of real time so when I know something is coming but isn’t here quite yet, my brain seems to kick into an anxiety driven over-drive mode and I don’t function well. I’m working on it and trying to develop some strategies that work best to help me maintain my sanity and keep my family from locking me out of the house.
- Be grateful. This advice is right from truth-teller, Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly. When we get worked up and afraid we need to use gratitude to silence the anxiety. For me that looks like changing the script in my head from “What if the plane comes crashing down? Where would I go if I got separated from my child?” (see, I told you I was crazy) to “I’m so thankful we get to take this vacation. My concern about a lost child comes from how much I love my family.” The vulnerability I’m trying to protect myself from is replaced with thankfulness and gratitude for what I have.
- Be Still. Some sound advice from sister warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton. I have a tendency to try to attempt great big projects or obsessive list-making when something big is on the horizon. I’m sure if I can just plan a perfect checklist, it will be fine. But getting still and being quiet are what I really need to do. If I find myself getting frantic, I try and make a cup of tea and sit quietly even for a few minutes. Deep breaths help too.
- Let the Feelings Come. Again Glennon to the rescue for this advice. I can quickly spiral out of control in the feels department and there is no holding back from the onslaught of ALL THE FEELS. If I want to avoid the meltdown I need to let the feelings come and accept them rather than spend my time fighting against them. Simply acknowledging them usually helps me calm down and deal with the feeling directly, rather than wrestling to keep my emotions hidden. It sounds weird but give it a try and see if it helps.
- Tackle it Bird By Bird. This wisdom comes from the title of Anne Lamott’s book on writing. It’s one of my favorite phrases when it comes to dealing with things that are overwhelming. When Anne’s brother waits until the last minute to do his science project on birds, his father finds him weeping at the table, completely overwhelmed with trying to get it all done. Anne’s father matter-of-factly states that the only way to do the project is “bird by bird.” I don’t have to have it all figured out or a 20 step plan or knowledge of the next 30 days. I only need to tackle the next right thing and it will slowly get done. As a writer, 100 pages is impossible but 100 words is ok for today. When I’m overwhelmed with the enormity of an upcoming change, I have to think only in short chunks of time to keep my mind from spinning down the calendar and Anne’s quirky phrase helps with that.
So what about you? Another change-worriers out there? What strategies help you make those transitions without losing yourself?