Tools For Embracing Change

Mmmm it’s that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. Summer is still very much here and yet- there’s a promise of fall in the air. We’ve shifted from Leo season to Virgo season, and are only a few weeks away from the autumnal equinox. The smell of change is all around as the wheel of the year prepares to turn once again.

Besides the fact that we are headed toward a shift in season, a shift from fire energy to earth energy, external celebration toward more internal contemplation, I don’t know about you but this year has brought about a metric ton of change for me.

Some changes I’ve been looking forward to and actively trying to make, such as relocating to San Diego next month and balancing my hormones.

Some of them are changes I really didn’t want, the biggest of those being my mom passing away two months ago.

Some of the changes are more neutral and passive, like turning 30 this month or my accountant giving me a new system for filing my taxes. No big feelings there, not really changing my routine or way of being.

Some changes are intentional and exactly what we need, even if they surprise us. Oftentimes these changes require listening to your inner wisdom, following the signs, and stepping aside to allow insight to arise in you. One just such change I’m making in my business, and I’ll share it with you after I share these tools.

As you can see, some changes have been great, some have totally sucked, and some are more neutral. Some have happened quite suddenly, and some are more more gradual and deliberate. Some really get me thinking and feeling and experiencing my life in different ways, and some don’t really rock the boat much, if at all.

Regardless of the type of change or how it comes about, there are really helpful tools and processes that come with releasing and making peace with what has been, honoring what is, and embracing what will be.

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Tools for Embracing Change

There’s no particular order for these tools, and with each one there are several different ways to use them and make them your own. There are bigger categories broken down into specific tools and practices to help you pick and choose what’s right for you.

Part 1: Create Space and Time to Integrate

Whether a change is sudden or gradual, welcomed or not, when changes happen we can need more space than usual to process and integrate what is happening or has happened. Space and time don’t have to mean full days off or blank space (though they can if that’s available and helpful for you), but having dedicated space in your schedule over a period of time to be with the changes can be really helpful.

1. Do a “Feelings Check”:
What I mean by “be with the changes”- stepping out of doing for focused periods of time to notice how you are processing your experience. Set up a way to regularly check in with yourself.

Take a deep breath and ask:
What do you feel in your body? What thoughts are running through your mind? What are your emotions and energy like? Are you grounded? Is your current state of being supportive for you? Do you need anything?

Ideally you simply check in, recognizing if there are judgements for where you’re at, and allowing yourself to feel it all.
When you get present to your feelings and what’s happening in your body, it can help you to understand what will actually help you in moving forward.

2. Ritual for Letting Go:
Crafting some type of ritual to release whatever is passing can help create a before and after anchor. Depending on what changes you are going through, these rituals will vary pretty wildly.

Options I recommend are:
Make it sacred and intentional. Go somewhere special, maybe light some candles, set up a space for you to be in ritual.
Employ the elements to support you. Earth is great for grounding and nourishment, water for washing away the old and releasing emotions, fire for burning away and transmuting old energy into something new, air for expanding into possibilities and breathing in new life.
Incorporate several different things. Do you need to write someone a letter? Move your body? Pull some cards? Create an offering? Tune into what will be valuable to you.

*Other Ritual ideas: Ritual for Celebrating, Ritual for Grieving, Ritual for Expansion and Possibility

3. Document the Stages:

Particularly when a change occurs gradually, it can be really helpful to document what is happening along the way so you can look back and remember that you HAVE been growing and changing and that things DO shift. I don’t love this example, but it’s one of the reasons people take “progress photos” on fitness journeys- to have a visual reference for what they are doing. Documentation can be whatever you want it to be.

If you’re a writer, maybe it’s journaling, or a commitment to writing a current state of affairs once a week or something like that. If you’re an artist or a visual person, it might mean taking photos or painting your emotions or making something with your hands.

Another way to look at documenting is to pay attention to the frustrations, the pivots, the acts of courage, and the breakthroughs along the way. When you look back over time you have a great collection of both understanding how you operate so you can have more ease in the future, and a whole lot of evidence that you can survive and thrive through anything.

Part 2: A Whole Lot of Permission

When you are going through changes in your life, your body, your work, your relationships- especially big changes- a lot of times our foundations get rocked and reoriented. Giving yourself permission, like real permission, to do things differently, to take more time than usual, to move faster than usual, to feel whatever you are feeling, to say or do things you never thought you would do- is a major part of that.

4: Institute a No-Guilt Grieving Policy
Listen. Every major change, even the good ones, come with a side of grief. Because even when you are thrilled about these changes, change naturally comes with loss (just as it comes with new life). Finally a mom after years of hoping? Amazing! And, it’s completely normal to grieve your kid-free life. Moving to a new city you’re super excited about (that’s me!)? Also means saying goodbye to the life you’ve built where you are and the person you’ve been in that place.

Even things like getting your finances in order, paying off your debt, or something along those lines can elicit a need to grieve. For me paying off my debt and choosing a more sustainable way of living meant I had to say goodbye to the part of me that loved the high of figuring it out every month and who thrived off of “pulling it off”. It’s much easier to invoke grieving when terrible things happen. We aren’t taught to make grief a natural part of our lives, and society kinda loves to make us feel guilty for grieving, especially when good stuff is happening.

Your task is grief sans guilt. Whether that means making a poster that says “No-Guilt Grief Zone” in your bedroom or coming up with a snappy comeback for that voice in your head, do what you need to do to keep this policy in place. (If you really struggle with this one, let’s talk- changing your relationship with guilt is something I do with all my clients).

5: Create a Power Phrase
Some people call them mantras, my amazing friend Maddie Berky calls them Power Phrases. Your Power Phrase is something you say to yourself as a reminder that you ARE awesome, you CAN get through it, and you’ve GOT this. It’s helpful to have on hand whenever any nagging, critical, doubt-y voices come into your head. It’s also helpful to have on hand when you know you need to keep moving and just don’t feel like it, or when you know you need to slow down and it scares you.

There are endless ways to write Power Phrases. I recommend keeping them positive (“I am” statements instead of “I’m not” statements, for example). Think about and feel in your body what you are working toward or how you hope to feel throughout this change. Ask yourself- “what phrase would really help me to remember this feeling and keep connected to who I am?”

Write out a few possibilities and choose the one that feels the best. Use liberally!

6. Go on a Joy Scavenger Hunt
Depending on the changes happening, this may feel super easy or it may require digging deep and really choosing it. Being in the middle of change, even the desired ones, can be super uncomfortable. Like we said, foundations are shifting, reality is changing, and it can be kinda disorienting. We’ve been conditioned to seek happiness at the end of a change, rather than to enjoy the journey. Or if something totally sucks, like my mom dying, it can feel really flipping weird to also have moments of happiness in the middle of all the shit.

So- set yourself up a joy scavenger hunt! This can look lots of ways- you can make it more of a creative project, like a joy Bingo board or a list of things to take pictures of (like fluffy puppies!). Or it can be to challenge yourself to find 5 things/ experience 5 moments each day that bring you joy.

And when you are in the joy? Give yourself space to really feel it. Breathe it. Smile. Cry. Laugh. Notice the cells in your body singing. Allow it to seep in and permeate all the little nooks and crannies of your being.

Part 3: Surround Yourself with Congruency and Champions

When we are going through changes it is so so so important to be surrounded by, as much as you can be, people who are congruent with you and who want to cheer you on. It’s a lot harder to make changes on purpose or to deal with changes when the people in your life don’t support you or don’t know how to be there for you. I’m so grateful for our digital world because it is so much easier to find support groups, to connect with friends over distances, and to choose from where we receive support. It’s also super important to be aware of what in your life may no longer be congruent with the changes that are happening, even if up until now it’s been great.

7. Celebration Calls

Find at least one person- a partner, a friend, a coach, a family member- who is totally on board with and understanding of everything you are going through. At least once a week, get on the phone (or have a scheduled text message time) where you connect and celebrate everything that happened in your life that week. Celebrations can be anything from “OMG I WON THE LOTTERY” to “I had a terrible day on Wednesday and got nothing done, but hey I’m still here.”

Having regular check-ins, as well as orienting toward celebrating, will serve as reminders that you are okay, you have good things going for you, and you are not alone in what you are experiencing. They are also great if things are going really well and you don’t feel comfortable sharing with everyone how awesome things are. Find that person (or people) who will celebrate right there with you, without jealousy or judgement. This creates the space for changes you are happy with to happen even more!

8. Take Inventory of Your Life
This maybe sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Take out a piece of paper and make a list of everything you have going on right now. This could be sports leagues, classes, work projects, life goals and projects, to-do list items (both one time and recurring), business projects and revenue streams (if you work for yourself), volunteering, travel, kids activities, etc.

Even if every single one of these things fit really well into your life up until now (also like… awesome if that’s true. Good for you!), when we go through changes sometimes other things need to change as well. Sometimes the changes are related, and sometimes stuff that is totally unrelated leads to making changes somewhere else in our lives.

When I made the shift years and years ago into teaching fitness classes full time, after a few months I had to make a decision about something else. For seven years of my life I had played competitive ultimate frisbee and I absolutely loved it. I was still playing and teaching fitness classes, and a couple of things were happening. I was having less fun playing in general, and I was worried about injuring myself, which meant I didn’t play as hard, and ended up having even less fun as a result. At the time I made the decision to stop playing ultimate and focus on my fitness career. It wasn’t an easy choice, but it was the right one for me at the time, and the time and space and energy that freed up led to a lot of other opportunities.

How to tell if something needs to change or go? Well first- are you still excited about it? Are you still excited about the reasons you chose it in the first place? Obviously things like doing laundry may not be exciting, but I bet you like having clean clothes. Really pay attention to if this thing is right for you moving forward, in the reality you are creating. Are there things ready to go, ready to change form, or ready to come in? (I also started playing an instrument again after a 5 year hiatus- more on that at a different time).

What tool speaks to you the most right now? What can you do right away to support yourself?