"The only constant is change" - Heraclitus
Heraclitus said "the only constant is change" and I agree. So why then is it so hard to go with the flow? Why can't we just all be flexible and relaxed about stuff? How do 'those' people, who are able to go with the flow, how do they do it?
Help! I miss my routine
Let's start with the basics. The opposite of going with the flow is having a routine, right?! It's just been half term and the school holidays bring up a lot of emotions for me.
- I love the fact that I get to see more of my eldest and middle daughters; I don't enjoy the constant need for attention though.
- The break from work is welcome but I beat myself up for not being more organised.
- I feel guilty for not doing more with them
- I'm tired and overwhelmed from all that we do
- I miss my friends - and the opportunity to talk/laugh/cry with real people
It's not just me either, they miss their friends, they fight, they eat -all. the. food. We all miss the routine of the school term. At first, I thought to myself that I could make a holiday routine vs a term-time routine and yet, that doesn't seem to happen. I learnt that both my children and I do well with a routine so what to do?
It's all about safety
Routines allow us to feel safe, we know what's going to happen and when. When something unexpected turns up we don't like it, because, well, you know, change. You know what, it's also about control. I am a self-confessed control freak. I want to be able to control stuff and the people around me. Not in a narcissistic way but in an 'I don't feel safe if I don't know what's going to happen next' way.
But a mixture of growing up, becoming a mum and learning to be a coach has taught me that no matter how hard you try to control things, there's always something you can't plan for - and, if you allow it to be, that thing, that unexpected event can bring anger, frustration and resentment. The solution - to go with the flow.
“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
What is going with the flow?
Going with the flow is accepting that stuff happens. That there are things outside of your control (almost everything in fact) and that getting angry about it is usually a waste of time. It means to understand that life might have other plans for you and that's OK, in fact, more often than not, it's better than before.
An example I come across regularly is people being made redundant. Now redundancy can come as a big shock and the reality of it is a big rollercoaster of emotions. The people who do best out of it, however, are those people who embrace it and see it as an opportunity. A friend of mine used it to take the whole summer off with the kids. Someone else I knew used the money to set up a new business. I used my redundancy experience to change careers.
How to go with the flow
Accept that you cannot control everything.
We all think we are in control - maybe we plan a beautifully calming start to the day. Perhaps we get up at five am and creep downstairs for some early morning yoga and meditation. We get two minutes in and then the cry of 'mummy' interrupts your thoughts. Yes, we can influence things and we can plan for the best outcome but ultimately, our sphere of influence still really only comes down to our behaviours and actions. We must accept that things we cannot control will disrupt our lives - and if we cannot accept it we will be permanently frustrated. Within this, recognise we have zero control over other people too!
Build your awareness
More than half the battle is noticing your emotion and naming it. Are you angry? frustrated? disappointed? overwhelmed? overexcited? By observing how we behave when we are faced with disruptions (and other change) we can find coping strategies, heal past traumas and become more self-aware. This awareness will help with the acceptance of change.
Get some perspective
When we are in the thick of our thoughts and emotions it's difficult to find perspective. If you can, take a deep breath and take a step back from the situation. Ground yourself by focusing on what's happening right now in your body and around you. Ask yourself, will this matter in 12 months time? If not, why worry about it? If it will matter, what are you going to do next? It is worth considering if you have experienced similar before - what did you do? What helped? What, if anything, will you do differently this time?
Be kind to yourself
This isn't going to happen overnight. Believe me, I have tried. This is going to take practice and it's going to take baby steps. As you learn to go with the flow there are still going to be moments of frustration but each time you build more awareness, more resilience, more acceptance. Over time, it will get easier, I promise. Focus on the smallest thing you can do today to move forward - that might be focusing on your breathing. Find a coping strategy that works for you and use it to learn and move on. This is all about progress not perfection. Here are some things I do:
- Laugh - try and find some humour in all of it. You can often hear me use the phrase 'I'm laughing or I'll cry'. It's not to say I don't or won't cry, but that usually comes afterwards for me, as a release. In the moment I have to get through it and dark humour works for me.
- Journal - I write down what I am feeling, no holds barred. Getting it out of my head gives me space to reflect and question if it's true.
- Talk to someone - always a good strategy. Whether you need someone to just listen or to work together to find a solution.
- Mindfulness - whether it's getting outside, drinking something hot/cold, doing some yoga or meditation, I allow space to be mindful and conscious.
- Gratitude - It can feel hard to be grateful for the hard lessons but when we are, we open up a world we didn't know existed.
Embrace life with all it brings
We only have one life and we can choose how we live it. Our idea of perfect doesn't exist, but what does exist is perfect; even if we can't see it. There is beauty to be seen all around us, even in the chaos, if we choose to see it. So embrace the change, go with the flow, do your best. Life can be messy, it can be unpredictable, it can bring us challenges we would not have chosen. Choose your reactions wisely, they are the only thing truly in your control.