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Stanford University School of Medicine

Coping with change: Be present, take time to grieve and reach out for help

Water_rippleCultivating mental and emotional well-being is no easy task. And just when you think you've found some happiness, a jarring change intrudes. Your boss quits, your dog dies, a neighbor smashes into your car...  what to do now?

Vaden Health Center's Donnovan Yisrael has some tips, which he shared in this BeWell@Stanford Q&A.

He urges those struggling with change to “be present” and focus on the moment or task at hand. And your resistance to change? That's natural, he says:

Our brains are wired to seek certainty and permanence — circuitry that likely was crucial for our survival. For example, our ancestors needed to ensure that having an abundance of drinking water was a 'permanent state' for their family/tribe to survive. And yet, 'the only constant is change,' and 'we are permanently in a state of impermanence.' While that sounds ominous, uncertainty is the reason we get excited for Stanford Football games or the new mystery novel we can’t wait to dive into.

To deal with traumatic transitions, such as the loss of a family member, it's important to allow yourself time to grieve, Yisrael notes.

With most change there is some loss, no matter how good the change. Often, we must say goodbye to something that was helpful or good, such as a dream or expectation; or even just what was familiar. So it is OK, even beneficial, to relive/record the good times and allow yourself to grieve. Mourning or grieving helps us to integrate the loss of something important into our lives, and to get to our 'new normal.'  In our modern world, we seem to have forgotten how to grieve and how to teach our children that grief is a normal response to loss.

He emphasizes that it's important to be courageous, but you shouldn't try to cope with massive change alone; seeking counseling, or companionship, from a personal friend or professional source can be extremely helpful.

Previously: Plumbing the well of wellness, Strive, thrive, and take five: Stanford Medicine magazine on the science of well-being, Well check: Rethinking what it means to be "well" and Thinking about "culture" as part of global well-being
Photo by skeeze

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