Who Moved My Life? Change is Coming
Why does it seem like just when I have my life figured out, it changes?
One of my first part-time jobs, after my children were all in school, was as a Library Aide at the public library working in the Children’s Division. As an avid reader, I hoped that bringing books home for the kids would propel them into reading even more. During my four-plus years there, many books were read, however not everything in my work was that easy. In my second year, our library went digital and started using PC’s. For those of you like me that grew up without computers, this was scary. My own children were right on the cusp of the internet. One of my responsibilities was a daily shift on the circulation desk. When I first started, we were still using “dumb terminals.” The transition to an Internet-based program and using new tools to do all of the work of the library was met with mixed responses. Boy, did some people resist. To some degree, the age of the employee was directly correlated to the response, as the older workers showed much more resistance. Several of the women I worked with in my department were basically computer illiterate and were okay with that. One of the techniques used by the administration was to hold several seminars and workshops on change. The one that stuck with me was the “Who Moved My Cheese” mindset, based on the book of the same name. There are six steps to move through on your way to acceptance of the changes you are facing.
Before presenting the valuable tools to help you accept the changes in your life, I would like to let you know that I have experienced many life changes and they have definitely impacted my mental health. Whether you are experiencing changes in your own life or a loved one is, this piece will bring you information on relationships between change and stress, how to measure stress and finally give you hope that we can all get through this. And we will get through this together by talking and listening to each other about mental health issues. There is someone out there to help you and perhaps you will be the help others need.
- Change Happens. They Keep Moving The Cheese. You must accept that things in life change and learn to develop strategies help to deal with it.
- Anticipate Change. Get Ready For The Cheese To Move. If you start recognizing the signals that indicate change is coming, you can get into the mindset sooner.
- Monitor Change. Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old. There will be more obvious changes that you will be able to check easily.
- Adapt To Change Quickly. The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese.
- Change. Move With The Cheese.
- Enjoy Change! Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste of New Cheese!
- Be Ready to Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again and Again. They Keep Moving the Cheese.
Some people will experience stress as an extra burden when accompanied by symptoms of anxiety or other mental illness.
Because of the inevitably of change, it is best to determine strategies that will allow one to move through the changes with the least amount of disruption to your life. In my experience, regularity is essential in my struggles with the symptoms of mental illness. If I keep to a regular schedule of waking and sleeping, working a healthy amount of time, I am less likely to run into ups and downs with my depression and anxiety. Life transitions can be difficult for everyone, however, it can be especially taxing on someone who is dealing with mental illness at the same time.
Some will even begin to experience an Adjustment Disorder which can come from the stress related to dealing with change. When I am experiencing an attack of anxiety, any added stress tends to push me to the edge, where even the easy days become difficult. I have experienced many changes in my life, with some much more difficult for me than others. One of those critical times was when my youngest was starting to look at colleges and I anticipated the “empty nest syndrome.” I started working with a therapist before she even left. Added to this new stress was dealing with my first two children having left for college already and the huge ADJUSTMENT I would be making from my role as their “full-time” mother to the mother of independent college students. Sure, I was always going to be Mom but when you are going from the daily stuff to only hearing about the day to day (and with one, not-so-much-of-anything) it is a big change.
One of the things you can do to determine the risk level your stress puts you at is to look at the following two sites. I believe that having this information earlier in my life would have been beneficial. Especially looking at the information on the cumulative effect of stress.
CHANGE CAN CAUSE A LOT OF STRESS
One of the things you can do to determine the risk level your stress puts you at and the following two sites let you do just that. I believe that having this information earlier in my life would have been beneficial. Especially looking at the information on the cumulative effect of stress.
You can try the following site to check your stress level: https://www.healthyplace.com/psychological-tests/online-stress-test/
Or try this stress test showing the values of different stress and uses a cumulative scale in the interpretation of the stress in one’s life.
Current research has been taking a look at the linkage between stress and mental health.
“…Recent research from the University of California, Berkeley, has discovered new insight into why stress can be so detrimental to a person’s psyche. Previous research has found physical differences in the brains of people with stress disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and those without. One of the main distinctions is that the ratio of the brain’s white matter to gray matter is higher in those with stress-related mental disorders compared to those without. People who experience chronic stress have more white matter in some areas of the brain. The UC Berkeley study wanted to find out the underlying reason for this alteration in the brain composition… This might mean that people with stress disorders, such as PTSD, have alterations in their brain connectivity. This might lead to a stronger connection between the hippocampus and the amygdala (the area that processes the fight-or-flight response). It might also cause weaker connectivity between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex (the area that moderates the responses). If the amygdala and hippocampus have a stronger connection, the response to fear is more rapid. If the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus is weaker, then the ability to calm down and shut off the stress response is impaired. Therefore, in a stressful situation, a person with this imbalance will have a stronger response with a limited ability to shut down that response.” Source: https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/02/25/how-stress-affects-mental-health/
Some will experience new stress response condition
“Adjustment disorder is a short-term condition that occurs when a person has great difficulty coping with, or adjusting to, a particular source of stress, such as a major life change, loss or event. In 2013, the mental health diagnostic system technically changed the name of ‘adjustment disorder’ to ‘stress response syndrome.’ Because people with this condition often have some of the symptoms of clinical depression, such as tearfulness, feelings of hopelessness, and loss of interest in work or activities, sometimes it is informally called ‘situational depression.’ Unlike major depression, however, it doesn’t involve as many of the physical and emotional symptoms(such as changes in sleep, appetite, and energy) or high levels of severity(such as suicidal thinking or behavior) .” Source: https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/change
- Researching an upcoming change . Often, stress can develop out of a fear of what is unknown.
- Attending to one’s physical and mental health. Being healthy in mind and body may make it easier to cope with changes in life.
- Taking time to relax. Remaining calm in spite of stress may be easier when one’s life is well-adjusted and includes time for leisure as well as work.
- Limiting change. It may be helpful to avoid making a large change immediately after another change.
- Discussing any difficulties adapting with another person. Family members may be able to help one adjust to change, but professional help may also benefit those experiencing difficulty or stress as a result of life changes”.
Every one of us is destined to experience several major changes in their lifetime. Many of us will feel the stress of these changes and how we prepare (if we can), process, and move into the change and will affect how much our mental health will be affected. As I look back on the previous changes in my own lifetime, I would do some things differently. Of course, a retrospective view is always much clearer. The first thing I would do differently would be to seek out help from an objective person. Maybe it would be a therapist or a health care professional but even a friend can help you look at the symptoms you might be feeling and knowing about your stressful situation, give you some perspective. The most important thing I hope you will take from this piece is you are NOT alone out there and change is a natural part of life. Stress may be there but if you are already experiencing symptoms of mental illness or if you think you may have stress response syndrome, get the help you DESERVE!