The act of change is naturally uncomfortable because it is a divergence from what is known. But that is also known as “growth”.
A few months ago I was diagnosed with celiac disease (an autoimmune disease where antibodies are created in response to gluten) and I had to change my entire diet literally overnight.
A year and a half ago I packed up what could fit in a few suitcases and flew across the country from my family to start graduate school.
In the last few years, I’ve also experienced smaller changes. And each change is uncomfortable. Change inevitably requires leaving what you know behind and embracing something new.
Every time I’ve gone through change I’ve experienced anxiety, stress, and have felt uncomfortable. But, through these last two large changes in my life, I have finally learned how to recognize and get comfortable with these feelings. It’s not about eliminating these emotions, it’s about learning how to use them so that they serve you instead of harm you. It’s about ensuring the change will help you grow, as opposed to limiting you.
Life consistently throws situations at us which require adaptation. Here are some of the ways I have learned how to handle the journey.
Going through change doesn’t mean you have to give up everything you know and love.
Moving across the country from my family may have made me physically distant, but it did not mean eliminating those relationships which were meaningful to me.
I talk a lot about this in the article I wrote documenting the lessons the move taught me. Maintaining the relationships I was physically leaving behind was essential to my adjustment in my new home. I adapted, and in the process, I learned.
Change doesn’t mean giving up all you know and love, even though it may initially feel that way. However, it may mean learning new ways to experience these comforts. When it came to moving, I had to consciously make an effort to visit my loved ones in person, call them frequently, and regularly have Zoom calls.
When you are going through change, you have to hold on to the comforting things that haven’t been altered.
When I was told I could never eat gluten again, I felt as though I was losing all of my favorite foods. But I held on to the things that I loved that I could still eat. Especially the first few weeks after my diagnosis, I didn’t try anything new. I didn’t run to the gluten-free section in the supermarket and buy all the snacks as some suggested. I simply ate what was familiar that I already knew I liked, and it truly helped me with the transition.
The first month after I learned I had celiac disease I didn’t try any kind of gluten-free bread. Real bread is what I knew I would miss most following diagnosis and so I didn’t want to force myself to eat an alternative I knew I wouldn’t be happy with.
Eventually, I tried gluten-free bread, but when I did I went into my first bite with the expectation that it wouldn’t taste like what I was used to. As someone who loved to bake homemade bread, I knew the taste of homemade crispy bread couldn’t be perfectly replicated.
And I was right: the gluten-free bread didn’t taste like normal bread. But I was less sad about it because I wasn’t thinking of it as if it was an exact replication. To be honest, I didn’t even think of it like bread. I just thought of it as a brand new form of food.
Similarly, when I moved, I didn’t try to find friends exactly like my old ones. I didn’t try to find a mother figure in my new state. These things can’t be replicated. Instead, I focused on the good, new, different things and did my best to embrace them.
Adjustment and adaptation take time. It is a process.
I was anxious my first few weeks alone in my new house after my big move, away from everyone I knew and loved.
Part of what gave me peace though was that I knew I wouldn’t become comfortable overnight. I never ever expected that.
Life is a constant journey of becoming comfortable with new experiences and adjusting to change. It requires patience.
Every time I got anxious, I tried to remind myself that growing comfortable would take time. The patience wasn’t always easy, but the reminder helped, nonetheless.
In every change, even those that seem negative, there is something that can be found that is positive.
Being gluten-free, I’ve tried a lot of new foods I never would have otherwise grabbed off the shelves.
If I hadn’t moved across the country, I never would have met my boyfriend of a year and a half.
If I hadn’t taken the leap and started graduate school, I would never get the degree that I’ve always dreamed of.
If I didn’t move, I would have probably never seen so many national parks or gone on so many hikes during this time in my life.
Changes initially will feel either good or bad. You will have an initial reaction to the change you have to adapt to. But even in the most disheartening of situations, there will be something that is positive to hold on to. Find the joys and live in them.
There will be lows. They are inevitable. There will be days when you feel overwhelmed, distraught, angry, and uncomfortable. You will want to go back to the time before the change when you were comfortable. You were relaxed. You were calm.
Our normality is comfortable.
Unfortunately, you can’t go back in time. But even if you could, I wouldn’t suggest it.
If you never leave your place of comfort, you will never be able to change yourself. And if you never change as a person, you never grow.
When I flew to Japan with two strangers I was petrified. I shared my fears with my mother and with those I was going with. We were together able to calm some of my nerves and better prepare to combat what I was apprehensive about before I took off on the plane to literally the other side of the world.
Covering up the lows of your transition isolates you from the help you could receive to combat them. And speaking from experience, you can’t combat every low on your own.
If talking helps you combat these moments, do so. If you are someone who prefers to get your thoughts out on paper, do so. Acknowledge the lows, process the lows, but don’t live in the lows.
When you haven’t experienced a specific change before, there’s no way to predict what will happen. You might have heard expectations from others who have gone through it, but even this will not tell you what you personally will experience.
I’ve found that eliminating all expectations is the best way to minimize disappointment, amplify joys, minimize stress, and live in the daily moment.
I had a million expectations for how things would go when I moved across the country from my family, started my graduate program knowing no one, and started managing a house by myself at the age of 22.
Most of them did not come to fruition.
Sometimes you just have to let go of what you think might occur and allow yourself to live in the moment. Which leads me to —
Each day will not be the same. Growth is not linear. Truthfully, emotions are often not even consistent over a day period. I prefer to take things moment by moment, thinking of smaller chunks in my emotional transition.
You may feel completely comfortable in your change one moment, but the next something occurs that sparks your memory of what used to be, and you begin to feel sadness or anxiety.
Recognize that this variation is normal. Live in each moment, accept it, process the emotion you feel, and then move on to the next.
I know, this too takes patience.
Part of what inspired me to write this article is because I have found so much peace through reading others’ journeys of change. Journeys of weddings, divorces, children, moves, sickness, health, education, wealth, loss, and love. We all are on our own journey.
No one’s journey is the same. However, we can learn from everyone’s unique experiences, find comfort in our similarities, and learn how to move forward and embrace our own form of change.
Starting a new job, starting a new school, switching careers, getting a new car, starting a new relationship, or even going to a new restaurant when you have food sensitivities/allergies can be uncomfortable changes.
Truthfully, change is always uncomfortable. Even when the change is something positive, adjusting to something new takes time and requires adaptation.
Have you ever heard the quote from Charles Darwin? I think it sums up the inevitability of change perfectly. The longer you live, the more change you will have to endure.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, and it is not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
Every new place you go gives you an opportunity to meet new people.
Every difficult experience you go through provides a chance for mental and physical growth.
Every trial and tribulation now behind have left you room for future joys.
Every change you go through makes you a more experienced individual with greater insight, more knowledge, and new experiences to share with others.
Transitions are never easy. However, there are ways to make them more manageable by assessing our expectations, focusing on the joys, allowing ourselves to feel, and taking things moment by moment.
The act of change is naturally uncomfortable because it is a divergence from what is known. But becoming comfortable with the concept of change is what allows us to grow.