The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change
By Kathy Ferguson, RN, Parish Nurse
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher, said “The only thing that is constant is change”. I never knew where that statement came from even though I have used it many times during my life. Heraclitus wrote this (or a similar translation) 500 years before Jesus was born. Isn’t it amazing we still use these words today? Many of us fear change or would prefer that things just remained the same. The aphorism, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, has been said many times when we are confronted with something new. If change is constant, we need to find ways to cope with it. This month’s article provides some suggestions about coping with change, as well as a personal reflection on change.
There are four basic stages of change credited to Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. The first stage is shock or denial. When a change is first introduced, people react to the challenge of the status quo. At this point, you may say or hear, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Stage 2 brings anger and fear. People fear the impact, feel angry, and may actively resist the changes. Stage 3 is acceptance. At this point, people stop focusing on what they’ve lost. They start to accept the changes. Finally, stage 4 is commitment, when people accept the changes but also start to embrace them.
Here are some strategies for coping with change from Dr. Stephanie Sarkis (2017):
Acknowledge that things are changing—Ignoring change will not make it go away. Saying to yourself, “Things are changing, and it is okay” can be less stressful than putting off dealing with it.
Realize that even good change can cause stress—Positive change like getting a new job, graduating, or getting married can create stress just like not-so-positive change. It’s okay to feel stressed even when something good has happened—in fact, it’s normal.
Keep up your regular schedule as much as possible—Having some things that stay the same, like going for a walk every morning, gives us an anchor. An anchor is a reminder that some things are still the same, and it gives your brain a little bit of a rest.
Try to eat as healthily as possible—What do we reach for when change or stress happens? I don’t know about you, but I crave carbs—bread, muffins, cake, chocolate, etc. This may be because eating carbs boosts serotonin—a brain chemical that may be somewhat depleted when you undergo change (stress). Reach for something healthy, like a piece of fruit, instead.
Exercise—Keep up your regular exercise routine or try adding exercise to your life. Even just walking around the block can help you feel better. Just exercising two to three times a week has been found to be helpful.
Seek support—No one gets through life alone. It is okay to ask for help; that’s a sign that you know yourself well enough to realize you need some assistance.
Write down the positives that have come from this change—This could include things such as meeting new people, practicing healthier habits, becoming more assertive, or helping you prioritize what is most important to you.
Vent, but to a point—Having someone to whom you can vent can be helpful—to a point. If you are only venting, that feeling of frustration can be contagious. Instead, try gearing the conversation toward action: What can we do to make things better?
Give yourself a break—Change is hard. Give yourself some time to deal with the pressures that come with change. Take some time away from the change to recharge your batteries so you can better cope.
I will be going through a change myself at the end of August. You may have heard—it hasn’t been a secret—that I will be stepping away from my Parish Nurse role at Bethel and retiring. I started as a Parish Nurse in January of 2015, just six months after retiring from Mayo Clinic. This position has been the best job I have ever had—really! Being your parish nurse has brought me so much joy! I have loved getting to know all of you during the past 7 ½ years. I have laughed with you and cried with you. I have had to be assertive at times (mask-wearing!) and have been quiet and just listened at times. I have felt your support as I experienced some major life changes and I have been able to support you as you have also experienced grief in your lives.
People have asked what I am going to do when I retire. I am still going to be a Bethel member and you will continue to see me at church. I am going to take some relaxation time before working on some home projects. I am going to go to more of my grandsons’ hockey games. I am going to do more hiking, biking, walking, and practicing yoga. I am looking forward to traveling. I have a pile of books that I can’t wait to read. I am going to enjoy everything that life has to offer. I am going to go on as many adventures as possible. Thank you for your support over the last 7 ½ years—it has meant the world to me. It has been an honor to serve you.
Mind Tools Content Team. (n.d.). The change curve: Accelerating change and increasing its likelihood of success. MindTools. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_96.htm
Sarkis, S. (2017). 10 ways to cope with big changes. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/here-there-and-everywhere/201701/10-ways-cope-big-changes