Have you ever had that feeling of uneasiness or resistance through a change or season in life?
Maybe it was a shift or personnel change at your department. Maybe it’s an upcoming move to a new house or state, or a major change in a relationship or marriage. Maybe it’s figuring out how new coworkers are to work with or what a new role is like. Or maybe it’s realizing you haven’t been living life the way you want or as that authentic you.
Change is inevitable in life, but some changes really hit deep. Few people really enjoy change, especially first responders and military members.
However, change is part of the job. Every day is different. You don’t know what calls are going to come through on your shift. But there’s a comfort in the things that stay the same, like your partners, office personnel, and other predictable elements.
Join me as I explore the following aspects of the change and growth process to better understand what you may experience in this season of growth:
- What the uneasiness feels like
- Resistance to change
- Recognize using escapist coping skills
- Feel the feelings and reactions
1. What the Uneasiness Feels Like
Let’s start off by asking… What’s been a recent change that has hit you hard? Take a minute to think about this...
Done? Alright, let's get started.
Mine was a fast-approaching move to the other side of the country along with a few other realizations in my life. I’m not a native California girl, but I did fall in love with California during my time in the area. This move hit hard for several reasons and felt like a chilly ocean wave that slapped me awake to see how I was living my life. There was major uneasiness for me.
Do you ever get a sensation or feeling of uneasiness with changes that hit hard? What does that feel like for you?
My uneasiness is a combination of a few things that are both physical and emotional. First, resistance. I’m digging my heels in trying not to be pushed toward the change. Then anxiousness and jittery feelings mix in. The anxiousness is in my gut. Sometimes if it’s intense enough, my heart starts jumping in my chest. The jittery restless feeling is like I literally can’t sit still and want to go run, fast.
Everyone experiences this uneasiness differently. It can include physical and emotional reactions. Do any of these reactions mirror what you feel with resistance to change?
- Increased heart rate
- Appetite changes or nausea
- Changes in sexual desire
- Sleep pattern changes
- Easily startled
- Feeling overwhelmed or hopeless
- Intense feelings of fear or sadness
- Anger outbursts
Listening to your body during a season of change is vital. Our bodies rarely lie to us, but our brains can justify a lot. It’s important to notice what your uneasiness feels like.
An example of this is when I realized I was feeling constant pressure in my chest, I was barley eating when I needed to, and had intense uneasiness sensations. These feelings were more intense than normal and persisted for a while.
This was my red flag that something was not right.
Body and mind awareness help us better understand that something is going on. This awareness can also help us understand why we may be experiencing different physical or emotional responses that are out of our norm.
2. Resistance to Change
Do you have resistance to change? I sure do!!
Every change is different, but for the changes that hit hard, there is major resistance that arises for me. Do you notice anything similar?
It is human nature for us to like predictability in our life. When I say human nature, there’s an element of predictability that helps us feel safe. Feeling safe is an important part of life to many people.
Think about how you drive to work, or what some of your preferences are. We are often creatures of habit.
Have you ever noticed how even minor changes in availability of what type of groceries or a change in where you sit at roll call or for a meeting can cause us to feel a little anxious sometimes?
That predictability is a piece of the puzzle to what helps us feel safe.
I’ve always loved moving and seeing the country. But where my resistance came in is I had finally found a place I really enjoyed living and now I had to leave…and reestablish my life somewhere that wasn’t here. My resistance could fill a good chunk of the Monterey Bay with the move and other realizations of life that hit me.
It’s perfectly reasonable to have resistance or feel anxious with big changes in life.
Where we should be aware is when we intentionally try to avoid and escape from the resistance and change.
3. Know When You’re Escaping.
Handling changes in healthy doses by using coping skills and self-care is a terrific way to approach a change. Coping skills and self-care are fantastic tools to help you approach change in a healthy manner.
However, there are times when we use unhealthy or escapist coping skills. Escapist coping skills are activities that avoid experiencing your authentic reactions and feelings. Escapist coping skills can be a variety of activities and choices including, but not limited to:
- Gambling excessive
- Excess drinking/drug use (prescription drug abuse)
- Infidelity/sex to escape
- Working excessive hours (more than just mando)
- Driving vehicles or motorcycles recklessly
- Other numbing activities
An example of when I recently realized I was trying to escape from the change of my move and other transitions in my life, was when I noticed a change in my driving.
You would have thought I was Jeff Gordon on the 1 in my Honda Pilot. As a former sprinter in high school and college, I always get a little satisfaction from beating people off the line at a light, but this was way different.
It hit me when a Porsche pulled up beside me on the 1, and I felt like playing keep up.
Quick note… I am not a car person. But I also fully know that my Honda (she’s in good shape, mind you) could NEVER keep up with a Porsche in a true race.
The need to feel like I have control over something, when everything else seems out of control, was screaming inside me. I was trying to escape from it.
One point to mention is distraction is different than escaping. Distraction can be helpful at times. Think of how you use compartmentalizing to be effective at work or home.
The key with compartmentalizing is that you come back to visit whatever you stored for that moment.
Escaping doesn’t revisit. Escaping is choosing to numb or avoid those reactions and feelings, usually at the cost of something else in your life. Like a relationship, job, or that authentic you at your core.
If you are having a hard time getting started or knowing how to begin your journey of change, talking with a licensed counselor is a great place to get tools and resources to begin your growth.
Escaping gives us a temporary reprieve from a moment of pain. But that uncomfortable feeling or resistance isn’t gone. It will come creeping back in slowly or be waiting for you at some point. Choosing to lean into change and learning to grow through change will help you live life how you want.
4. Feel the Feelings and Reactions.
In all fairness and honesty, this step is not a favorite for many people. But it’s a crucial step.
A big part of growing through change is experiencing the feelings and reactions you have.
It might seem almost intolerable sometimes to allow those reactions or feelings in. But when you tolerate them little by little, that’s when the magic of growth happens.
When you allow yourself to feel the reactions and feelings you experience with change, you are processing what’s inside you. As you tolerate the uncomfortable, without escaping or numbing, you are building the skill of moving through change.
With my example from above about wanting to race, I recognized this behavior is not me that day when I pulled into my driveway. Then all my emotions came flooding in. A whole bunch of tears poured out. They needed to come out.
One phrase I often use is, “tears likely wouldn’t come out if they didn’t need to.”
I leaned into the hurt and pain of leaving a place I love, along with big life realizations, choices, and transitions for me. The more I leaned into that pain, the less I felt like racing.
As you allow yourself to experience those reactions and emotions in tolerable increments, the less intense they feel moving forward. You are allowing yourself to grow and heal.
Change and growth is quite the journey. You’re not alone on this journey. The really beautiful piece of change is growth and living your life on the other side of change.
Be well and take care!
Liz Durfee, MSSW
Liz is an Associate Clinical Social Worker in California. She is one of our experienced counselors at Code 3 Counseling. Liz specializes in working with first responder and military trauma. You can contact her through our website.
If you find that this exercise or these conversations brought up some stuff you are struggling with, either individually or in your relationship, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for help. We are here to support you, and we understand that this can be a challenging issue to face.
Remember, it may be your battle, but you don’t have to fight it alone.