A month ago, I spent time helping my partner find and furnish a new apartment. Two weeks ago my annual 8-week summer break ended and I returned to my job as a college counselor. On Friday morning I had the opportunity to welcome dozens of first-year students to campus as they moved into their residence halls. Saturday I offered a workshop called “Endings, Beginnings, and Transitions: Adjusting to College Life”. It’s safe to say that “coping with change” has been on my mind for some time.
When I look back at my past difficulties with Binge-Eating Disorder, I realize that my most significant binges began with an intense emotional response to change. I didn’t have the tools back then to cope with change. It evoked fear, anger, and sadness, none of which I wanted to feel. I described myself (and others described me) as a happy person, kind and gentle and hopeful. How could I reconcile that label with feeling afraid, angry, sad, or hopeless?
Fortunately, my years in recovery and my professional experience as a counselor have taught me that I can still be “a happy person” who feels the full range of human emotion. I’ve learned that I can recognize and sit with my feelings and they won’t drown me; they usually subside on their own. But when they don’t, I now know how to redirect my attention to the present moment using mindfulness meditation or just the principle of non-resistance to the way things are.
If you’re struggling to cope with change, you’re not alone. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the fear, anger, and sorrow of letting go of what’s familiar. Be gentle with yourself and know that whatever you’re feeling is okay. It will eventually (or soon) pass. If you need to talk about your feelings with someone, do so. A trusted friend, family member, clergy person, or counselor can validate and normalize your feelings, help you problem-solve or find other resources, or just distract you from the intensity of your feelings.
Consider learning about mindfulness and starting your own mindfulness practice. There are many guided meditations on YouTube, as well as books about the practice of mindfulness. I’m currently reading “The Mindful Way through Anxiety” by Orsillo and Roemer and “How to Be An Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving” by Richo. Find what would be most helpful to you and give yourself the gift of accepting change, accepting your feelings, and accepting support from others.
Peace, joy, and health,