A few days ago, I was reminded of the importance of the art of mental flexibility in order to avoid stress.
One of the many reasons people feel stressed out is that life changes when they don’t want it or expect it. It is the surprise change that throws the careful routine out the window. People then tense up, trying to restore what was, without being opened to the change and the possibilities it could bring into their life.
I consider myself quite good at being flexible and I believe it to be true for the most part. But sometimes, we need a reminder.
For the past 10 years, we have led a gluten, milk and egg free life, due to a lot of food allergies running in the family. While it had been a huge initial adjustment at the time, and it had continued to be extremely restrictive for us, we had found a routine that worked. We had adapted.
Then a few weeks ago, the doctor suggested that the kids should be re-tested for their allergies and the way to do that was to re-introduce in their diet the offending foods for a couple of months and have test done again at the end of the period.
Needless to say, the kids were ecstatic. Finally they would be able to eat like everybody else and enjoy the foods they had been missing out on – pizza, cupcakes, cheeseburgers – the first few days were a teenager dream.
However, I had a completely different reaction. I felt overwhelmed by the idea of all the changes needing to happen for this to work: Double food preparation, (Not everybody in the family is being re-tested), change in shopping patterns, getting used to using those ingredients again, … The list went on and on.
While in theory, I could see that it was a very positive move, I was really struggling with the change emotionally.
I was losing a routine, a well oiled way of doing things. And while it had been very restrictive, it also worked. We were used to it. Why change?
Suddenly I lost the restrictions around our family life and the possibilities became endless and … overwhelming.
It was a great example of change being a vector of stress when it did not need to be.
Change meant more uncertainty; uncertainty that I was not ready to face with at that moment. It meant that I would have to do more “adapting” and, well, I was simply not prepared for that.
We are all guilty at some points of resisting change, because it threatens our sense of security. We are “threatening” the balance in our life by letting changes take place.
However, the quality of our life is directly dependent on our tolerance to uncertainty. The more uncertainty we are able to cope with in our life, the lower our stress level and the higher our quality of life.
Life is changing all the time, whether we wish for (or like) it or not.
So here are a few things to remember when facing Life.
- Don’t tense up when confronted with changes. By not tensing up when confronted with a new situation, we are more likely to be able to see what needs to happen to facilitate the change.
- Remain open minded when facing new situation. By being flexible, we reduce our experience of stress and increase the quality of our lives.
- Choose to remain calm and happy no matter what. The only thing we can control is how we choose to react to a situation. The situation itself is unlikely to be affected by the way we react. But our experience of the situation is likely to be influenced by our reaction to it.
And yes, after their initial binge, the kids are now eating a healthy diversified, all inclusive diet and enjoying it and I have adapted to a more diversified shopping list. Until the results come back and we need to adapt again.
Joelle Amouroux-Huttner is a life coach specializing in burnout. She helps people to consistently flourish and become stronger, more assured in their choices. They go from strength to strength and they take on bigger challenges confidently. If you need a boost in confidence, then Joelle is the coach for you.
Joelle holds an MBA, she is a accredited Life Coach and accredited advanced EFT practitioner.