How to manage change when change stresses you out

Before I start explaining why change scares me, how I have managed to figure out strategies that make change easier, and how it applies to teaching, I am going to define how I understand different concepts of change.

Understanding of Terms

Forced change-something I have no control over, for example moving houses

Positive change- something that I have some to little control over but it is something that I am happy about, does not make the change easier but knowing that it will make my life better results in less stress, for example going to university

Adaptation- this is not really change, it is more like altering something to make it work for other people, for example changing parts of a system to make it work for all people involved, without completely changing it all

Improvement- something that is welcomed and progressive, not immediate and not overwhelming, for example getting the newer edition of the same vehicle

Growth-change that happens gradual, personally, and on your own terms, for example learning a new language

My issue with change

It is not that I think change is  bad, its that change physically, mentally, and emotionally stresses me out, and too much stress makes me very sick. My family has this weird habit of  buying a great house, paying it off, selling it and buying a new house, all in the same town. Craik has like at max 100 houses in the town, I have lived in three of them. It is not that the houses are upgrades, but they are different. The most recent house we moved into right before I started my grade 12 school year, we were building the house of scratch so I got to design my room how I wanted it, this allowed for me to feel some control, which lasted long enough for me to agree to moving again. So I packed my stuff and moved across  town into my newly painted bedroom, for the total of a year and 8 months. I went away for university, which was a positive change, that I had been preparing for since I was six and decided I wanted to become a teacher. I think my parents were expecting me to come home more often, but between school, my friends and my boyfriend, I only came home for the weekend once a month. Eventually my parents decided that it made more sense for my sister to have my room downstairs and me to move upstairs. They made this decision without telling me and when I came home for a weekend I found all of my stuff upstairs. I handled it like a real adult, turned around, walked out of the house and drove back to the city. At the time of this event I handled change by avoiding it, which only works so good. You cannot control when life decides to throw you a curve ball, or when all of your plans disappear.

My room at my parents place has all the same stuff that I did when I moved out, including a lot of my clothes, stuff animals, important pieces of my childhood. Stuff that in most cases people would get rid of, box up, store away, yet mine is where it is easily accessible, even though I only live there during the summer while I work. Clothes that I will never wear again, and pictures of people who I have little contact with now fill my bedroom. It isn’t even that I care about most of the stuff, its that I have control of not changing my bedroom.

Moving is a fairly big change, it happens all at once so you really see the differences and notice the impact it has on your life. Growth is a different type of change. Looking back at who I was in high school and who I am now I notice a huge amount of change. I have grown from a sheltered, slightly entitled, control-freak, who was occasionally really good at being one of the mean girls. To someone that is focused on social justice, works very hard to succeed, and use my mean girl talents for  good. Who I was, led me to who I am but I am happy that I changed because the person I am now is someone I am proud  of, the person I was is someone that needed to grow, to change. However, if I would have noticed the change happening I would have resisted, I would have pull back. Which is why growth is different than change.

Not changing things that I have control over is a problem because it is irrational. I know that change is good, but I also know that change can be bad.

Managing the stress of change

In the past four years of university I have learned some strategies that help me relax when dealing with change.

  1. Determine if the change is positive or negative
  2. Find a positive in the change, no matter how small
  3. determine if there is any part of the change that you can control
  4. take control of the pieces you can control
  5. vocalize your frustrations with someone you trust, this helps you put it in perspective
  6. develop an understanding if you are mad/upset because the change is bad or because it is change that I am not in control of
  7. if it bad, why is it bad, what would make it better, who do you need to talk to
  8. understand that just because I have control of the change does not make it easier, but it means it can happen gradual, allow it to be slow
  9. don’t rush into something, even if you love the change afterwards, you will find a reason to hate it and freak out
  10. for every con, try your best to find at least one pro, say the pros out loud when stressed
  11. let people know when you are having a bad day, find your person and talk to them, do not stress out alone
  12. do something that relaxes you while thinking about the change
  13. if nothing else works than go for a workout, it will clear your mind-this is a last resort because associating working out with stress too much will cause you to find a reason to stress while working out
  14. It is easier to “go with the flow” if you do not have set plans. Having general ideas of what you are going to do is easier to work with when things do not go exactly as planned. Writing detailed lesson plans do not work for me, because if I have to deviate in anyway to make the lesson work than I feel like the lesson failed, even if it was a success.
  15. find a different way to phrase the change, trick your brain, if you force yourself to believe it and say it enough times than you will begin to actually accept it
  16. breathe, breathe, and breathe

These strategies, usually in this order is how I survive change, but if I am being 100% honest than before I even start this process I always have a small freak out. Freaking out is O.K. as long as it is only a stepping stone to handling the change, and freaking out is way better than ignoring the change.

How does any of this connect to school?

I  am not the only person that hates change, I had 10 people in my grad class, three of  us hated change. The  teachers could not understand this when they would change the assignment to “make it easier” or “more applicable”, all that was being done was resulting in a different reaction from each of us, I would freak out and re do the whole  thing. One of the others would leave it, accepting the poor mark, the final one would have a freak out and refuse to do the assignment. The teachers did not seem to understand this, even though we had the same teachers for multiple years in a row. I will have students that will hate change, and I will be able to understand. I will also have students that will experience unexpected change, forced change, change that makes them feel helpless and alone. I can work with that, I can use the strategies that I learnt to allow others to adapt. Change is going to happen, what I do with that is up to me, how I handle it is up to me…but really it doesn’t feel like I am in control and I am handling it. Students have the same moments, the moments when they lose a friend, fail a test, have family problems, start struggling with the moments that every youth has to face whether they want to or not. Students feel like they have control of nothing, so they resort to making decisions that they can control, change that they allow to happen, even if it is not in their best interest.

I hate change, but I have learned to manage it. I have learned to manage it in a way that does not make me sick, that does not make the situation worse. Change can be happy…at least that is what I am told, as long as I keep focusing on that I will keep working on allowing my life to change.

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