To Grow is to Change . . .

“To grow is to change, and to have changed often is to have grown much.” – Cardinal Newman

This is one of my favourite quotes . . . I have it in my e-mail signature line and framed on my bookshelf. I love change, I’ve changed often, and I continue to grow much (in more dimensions than I’d prefer, at times!). That said, change can be exhausting!

Did you know that there’s a cumulative effect from change? Psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe developed the Stress Scale, a tool that ranks life changes according to the amount of stress they are believed to bring. Although stressors don’t impact everyone in exactly the same way, this scale can be a useful starting point to see if your stress levels are creeping into the danger zone (I don’t think mine have ever been out of the danger zone since I entered adulthood – so other important things to measure are coping resources and resiliency; luckily, I’m blessed with high scores for both of them, too!).

Continuous, relentless stress, though, can lead to burnout. If, like me, your work and life bring constant changes, ensure that you’re adding in extra de-stressing moments to compensate. Gerry and I are about to leave on my 12th trip in the past 6 months. We’ve actually gone through more toothpaste in our travel bag this year than in our bathroom at home! We both love travel . . . but there’s no denying that it’s stressful. Therefore, we try to add on a few days to each trip that are just for us – to visit friends or family, tour the local area, or simply have time with no agenda other than to recover from jet lag, get adjusted to the climate, and find our way around the local neighbourhood.

Psychologist Nancy Schlossberg developed a 4S model to explain individual differences in coping with transitions (the process that accompanies life changes). She found that one’s Situation, Self, Support, and Strategies together impact how people respond to exactly the same event (or non-event – an anticipated event that doesn’t happen, such as a missed promotion or a broken relationship prior to a marriage). For example, as I contemplate re-packing the suitcase that I just unpacked a few days ago, although I’m definitely tired of travel right now (and looking forward to a summer in my own garden), I recognize that my Situation is very privileged in that I get to choose whether or not to travel and have incredible flexibility in deciding how long to be away. In terms of my “Self” – I’m healthy, very comfortable travelling, fascinated with different cultures, insatiably curious, and able to quickly convert a hotel room into a temporary home. Because Gerry travels with me, I have the same Support as when I’m home; I’m also blessed with an amazing team at Life Strategies who have become quite used to working with me through MSN chat and e-mail. In terms of Strategies, we’ve booked our flights so that we arrive a few days before the conference, and then spend a few days on vacation before returning home.

As you reflect on your own change, growth, transitions, and related stress, consider how to minimize the negative impacts of change and strengthen your resiliency and coping resources – both strategies can be effective.

Originally posted June 15, 2011 by Roberta Neault

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