by Eric A. Thomas
Change is inevitable an many of us handle change differently. One event, or a series of events, can alter the direction of your journey in an instant. While it can be difficult to deal with uncertainty and challenging times, learning how to navigate changes at your own pace is a resiliency tool that can be valuable throughout your whole life.
With everything we are going through right now as a society, the uncertainty is piling up. How do we cope? Where do we go from here? The questions seem endless.
Recently I had the opportunity to get some helpful advice from Diana Knaebe, the administrator of Memorial Behavior Health (MBH), the mental-health affiliate operated by Memorial Health System. Knaebe is based in Springfield but MBH does have offices in Jacksonville, located at 340 West State Street.
Life changes come in all forms. From losing a job, going through a divorce, moving, and losing a loved one. Many times, these changes can be without warning. When faced with life-altering experiences, what is the best way to weather the storm? “Acknowledge the events and your feelings,” remarked Knaebe. She went on to say that avoiding negative and hurtful emotions can seem tempting, but you may be unintentionally postponing, and possibly increasing a flood of emotions for some point in the future. Lean on your support network. Don’t underestimate the power of connecting with your friends, family members, loved ones, colleagues, or neighbors about the events that have taken place and how you are reacting to those events. Allowing yourself this time lets you gain perspective and begin the coping and healing process.
Another key is to practice acceptance. The event has happened. Let go of that which you can’t control and refocus yourself on things you can control, such as your words, your actions, and your choices. “Set realistic expectations with yourself. It may not be feasible for the situation or event to go away but decide how you can start taking small steps to address the issue and emotions at hand without feeling overwhelmed,” added Knaebe.
During uncertain times it is important to practice and prioritize self-care. Even if you are unable to practice your usual healthy lifestyle habits, you can still take care of yourself. Practice mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or yoga. “These can be helpful tools for both the mind and the body when going through challenging times,” concluded Knaebe. If you are unable to prepare a full, nutritious meal right now, consider adding healthy snack options to your bag to bring with you. If you can’t get to the gym for your usual workout, take a 10 to15 minute walk. If you haven’t been sleeping well, taking a nap can be restorative. Lean into the things that re-energize you.
Be kind to yourself. This is not the time to be your worst critic or your worst enemy. Allow yourself permission to not be perfect, but instead to be flexible as you navigate how to best process through the event and your emotions. Challenges can be opportunities for growth. Just allow yourself grace and the time to get there.
In closing, Knaebe was asked how to go forward without feeling overwhelmed. She gave the following tips:
- Focus on the areas you have control over.
- Create a list to help focus as needed.
- Try to create a general structure for yourself.
- Begin to examine the event or situation. Break this down in more manageable components.
- Choose a few smaller things you have control over and begin to address these first.
Memorial Behavior Health in Jacksonville is open Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. All sessions, during this pandemic, are conducted via telehealth (therapeutic support provided over phone) or video conferencing (camera is used so you can virtually be face-to-face) and no group sessions are being held at this time. They can be reached at 217-245-6126.