A 4-Step Strategy When Change is Too Painful

Episode 8

Transitions are full of the unknown. Sometimes change is uncomfortable. And at other times, it’s downright painful.

This episode is for those other times…

There are times that a change - whether or not it’s expected - can feel absolutely paralyzing. 

  • The death of a child, parent, spouse, or friend
  • The end of a marriage
  • A job loss

As I talked about in episode 2, it might be unexpected only because we may have been distracted or in denial. But it may be a bona fide surprise, too.

Either way, those heart-wrenching and heavy moments are transitions that we need to be able to not only face but walk through to the other side. And while we may be frozen in pain or fear, here are some strategies to take note of now so that we can overcome them then…

a strategy for when change is too painful

1 - Be mindful of the pain

Don’t try to minimize it, explain it, excuse it, or push it aside. Be aware and prepared for the fact that dealing with a painful change - no matter what it is - will bring feelings of loss, sadness, depression…a myriad of emotions. They are all normal, and they’re all yours. Embrace them.

How to prepare - Go back to the episode on mindfulness and start practicing that now. Pause during your day and do a “check-in” where you stop and assess what you’re thinking or feeling at that moment.

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2 - Develop a support team

I remember when I had gotten some devastating news about someone close to me that rocked my world. I was angry at that person, at God, and just pretty much a seething mess. But then I remembered the Bible story of the friends of the paralytic who lowered him through the roof so that Jesus could heal him. Since at the time I wasn’t exactly able to turn to the Lord to help me, I enlisted their help by being prayer warriors for me. 

How to prepare - Nurture deep friendships that will grow and last. This is something that happens over the course of a life’s journey, so if you don’t have a few friends like that, there’s no better time than now to start working on this. It might feel awkward, but it will be worth it. Not sure how to get started?  Pick one person and invite them out to lunch. Today. Go!

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3 - Get to know yourself

Sounds silly and superfluous, I know. But it isn’t. Start posting journal entries as if you were writing to a new friend. Answer questions like: what do you like to do? What makes you happy? What do you do when you’re feeling blue to feel better? What makes you sad or anxious? What are some habits you have - both funny ones and ones you’d like to break?  These are things that are important to note because when we’re grieving or reeling from bad news, we don’t stop to think about our actions. If we know ahead of time, tho, that when we’re depressed we reach for a drink, we’ll be able to recognize when that’s happening and connect it to why. And it’s then that we can be a bit more proactive about making healthy choices.

How to prepare - You’ve heard me say it before and you’ll hear me say it again: start journaling. I know you may not think you’re a writer, but journaling has nothing to do with being a writer! It’s about exploring and communicating self-discovery. It’s expressing a journey using words or drawings that you can look back on and learn from.

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4 - Make physical activity a habit

Now, I’ll be honest with you, I’m not an exercise freak. And when someone tries to tell me about the “runners high” I have to belly laugh. (Side story - years ago I trained with my best friend to do a 5k. Well…I ended up THE last one to cross the finish line. And truth-be-told, while we laughed our heads off during training and the race, there was absolutely NO “high” involved at any point of the process…) BUT, I do love a good bike ride and have just discovered aqua aerobics. Talk about a mood changer! Physical activity releases endorphins, which are the “good mood hormones”. So it’s helpful to know what you can do when the situation calls for it to enjoy a burst of those natural chemicals. 

How to prepare - What kind of physical exercise do YOU enjoy? Playing a sport? (Ever heard of pickleball?) Dancing? Swimming? Hula-hooping? Start something now and do it regularly!

When "strategy" isn't enough

OK, now I know that if you’re going through a transition right now that is particularly difficult, it’s almost insulting to hear me present this strategy and think I’m saying this is the solution. It’s like prescribing a band-aid for a broken arm, right? So it’s important to remember a few caveats:

  1. Everyone is different and we all go through grief, loss, and transitions differently.
  2. The process is a journey, yes, but not necessarily a linear one.
  3. Every situation has its own set of layers and nuances. Your circumstances may make the change all the more painful or challenging.
  4. There may come a time when we need to seek professional help. And there is no shame or condemnation in that. Wise is the person who knows they cannot move forward unassisted.

Join me next week when I talk about how to work on getting better, and not bitter when your transitions are hard, painful, or unexpected.

You got this, friend!