If there is one thing the pandemic taught society, it’s that change is inevitable, and the ability to adapt is a skill.
Adaptability is one of the most valuable skills to have. It is something you need to use almost daily, but no one ever teaches you how to deal with change. There is not a class in school or a manual that is handed out. You are just expected to have the skill and ability to deal with it.
“Often, we're told to just be positive,” explains Jay Shetty. “To think good things, and look for the good in everything. But that is not necessarily the best advice, and it can be misleading. It can create more challenges than solutions, and you end up feeling emptier because of it.”
In this article, Jay Shetty unpacks the five stages you experience in change and how to manage them effectively.
Change can feel like grief, loss, or pain. This is because it often feels like things are changing for the worst, and no one wants things to change for the worst.
Thich Nhat Hanhsaid, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Jay Shetty explains this quote this way: “We have this attachment to familiar pain, we keep going back to the same pain, and we want the same pain, because it gives certainty in our life.”
We dislike change so much that we would instead invite familiar pain into our lives to avoid change’s uncertainty.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
Psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross created a model1 that outlines the five stages of grief and how to deal with them. This model gives us an inside look at how to process through grief without letting it destroy you. We have all experienced some sort of loss due to the pandemic, whether it was losing a loved one, or a loss of work, income, connection, vacations, planned events, or promotions. We’ve all experienced grief in some shape or form, especially during this difficult time, but we may not know how to deal with it in a healthy way.
As you work through your grief, remember you’ll likely experience some form of these five stages of grief:
- Denial. This is a normal reaction to rationalize the overwhelming emotions you feel. Denial is a defense mechanism. It helps buffer the initial shock of that feeling of loss. It is a natural first step in the grieving process.
- Anger. As the denial starts to wear off, you feel the pain of the loss, and you search for someone or something to blame. You lash out and try to deflect the pain you are feeling onto someone else.
- Bargaining. This is a crucial stage in the grief process. It gives you time to adjust to the reality of the situation and provides a temporary escape from the pain you feel.
- Depression. This stage is where the intense sadness sets in. It disrupts your sleep, your appetite, and your motivation. It is not a sign of mental illness but rather an appropriate response to the loss you face.
- Acceptance. This doesn’t mean you are okay with the loss. Instead, this is the part of the process where you accept the reality of the loss and come to peace with the fact that you can not change it.
Face Change Head On
This pandemic is an opportunity to increase your ability to deal with change. Change is not something you can avoid or pretend is not there. We all need to embrace it and face it head-on.
“One of the biggest mistakes we make in change is that we belittle our pain, and we shrink it. We make it feel insignificant,” Jay Shetty explains.
It’s like knowing someone is going to stop by your house later. You don’t want to get the house cleaned up, so you just shove everything you don’t want your visitors to see in a closet. No one will see it there, and it is out of the way. With things shoved in the closet, the house looks great!
But the next time you open that closet, all the extra stuff you packed in there comes tumbling out and hits you. According to Jay Shetty, our problems are kind of like that. When you try to ignore your issues, they may go away for a while but eventually, they all come tumbling out.
Five Stages of Change
“If you don't know where you are, how are you going to get to where you want to be?” questions Jay Shetty. Thinking of dealing with change as a sort of grieving process in itself, Jay Shetty was inspired by Kübler-Ross’s Model of the five stages of grief to create his own modified five step model applied to how we deal with change.
Here are his tips on how to increase personal growth and development that will allow you to deal with change. As you read through each step, think about what stage you are in to know what stage to strive for.
Anxiety is a common emotion to feel at the beginning of change. It may surprise you that you feel anxious about a situation. You may question why you are feeling nervous and confused, leading to worry and anxiousness. Anxiety is a natural, normal feeling. It’s only when you demonize those feelings that problems arise.
“Monks never demonize or glorify anything, they neutralize it,” explains Jay Shetty. “Neutralizing it means you expect it to happen. You learn to develop the tools and practices that help you manage it and navigate it, rather than expecting it to never happen.”
You can live your life wishing not to feel a certain way or trying to only feel a certain way all of the time. That’s not feasible. Life doesn’t happen that way. You can strive to be a happy person, but that does not mean that you will feel happy all the time. When you create these false expectations in your mind, it increases your anxiety.
Jay Shetty suggests thinking about what is creating anxiety for you and seeking out the facts. Don’t focus on fiction or the opinions of others. It is easy to let what others think infiltrate your thoughts. Focus on the facts and move into accepting it and neutralizing the anxiety. As you take this step, the anxiety becomes easier to deal with.
Anger is not always an outward emotion. Screaming and shouting at people is just one way anger manifests. It can also show up as an internal feeling of bitterness or upset. Maybe you feel angry at yourself for not being productive or mad at the world and what is going on around you in general.
“I think a lot of us experience inward anger more than we experience outward anger,” shares Jay Shetty. “This is the frustration, the pain, and the disappointment with ourselves or the situation in general. We’re angry at governments or the world. We're angry at the news. We're just angry.”
Anger is a natural feeling. Work through it by focusing on feeling it for less time. Giving anger less energy will eliminate the hold anger has on you. Journal your feelings and direct the anger to what is holding you back. Reflect and accept those feelings as you move toward where you want to be. It is okay to feel anger. Just don’t let that anger consume you, says Jay Shetty.
It is not always easy to accept change. Accepting something doesn’t mean that you are happy about it. It just means you’re able to deal with it in a healthy way.
“Acceptance is not a permanent state,” explains Jay Shetty. “You may get to acceptance in a day, then you may feel anxiety again the next day. That's fine. Acceptance is a growing state.”
Getting to the point of acceptance as quickly as you can is a beautiful thing, but don’t rush the process. It needs to be honest and come from a genuine place.
Jay Shetty explains that sometimes we rush the process of getting to acceptance because we think we have to be there.
“I don't want you to be at acceptance because you feel you have to be there,” Shetty says. “I want you to be at acceptance because you really are there. When you feel you have to be somewhere, you're not really there.”
Adapt and Adjust
Adapting and adjusting can take a long time for some people. It’s not something that can be rushed. Explore new ways to adjust to your new normal. Even simple things like trying a new routine or creating a new workout for yourself can help.
The experimental stage of adapting and adjusting can be exciting because you are trying to find ways to make things work. When you are in this stage, Jay Shetty suggests creating one flagship thing to do every day. Make it something you enjoy and can stick to. You don’t want to do something that makes you miserable.
Once you have worked through the anxiety and anger and moved on to accepting, adapting, and adjusting, you can start taking action.
Taking action means making a plan to move in the direction you want your life to go and making a difference in the lives of others along the way. Showing affection to others is a great way to help you manage change. It gives you a role in the solution. Being part of a solution makes the problem feel like a resolution is possible.
When change is present, you will cycle through these five stages as you process the change.
“You are going to go through all stages multiple times,” Jay Shetty explains. “Do not expect to get to action and not fall back into anxiety later that week.”
Don’t let that cycle discourage you. Keep plugging along and stick to your plan. You know that it is going to happen. Embrace that change and keep moving forward.
“The key to managing change is that you find a new way to live and a new way to fall in love with your life,” Jay Shetty shares.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “5 Stages of Coping With Change You Can’t Rush” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.