Unsettled-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Adapting to Change

Unsettled Dr. Arielle Schwartz

I show up for work and sit with many people, face to face. Unlike most weeks when the theme is very personal; this week has been dominated by the impact of recent unsettling events on people’s lives and psyches. Here is a brief synopsis-my takeaway from the perspective of a psychologist.

“Adapting to change involves orienting yourself towards a sense of safety in the here and now. Give yourself space and time to grieve and know that acceptance doesn’t mean that you are ok with what happened, it means that you choose to go on with your life in a meaningful way. Change, even unwanted change, isn’t all bad. Take a moment to focus on the good as it exists in your life. If there are changes that are out of your control than ask “How can you be the change you want to see in the world.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Theme 1: Trauma triggers. If you have a history of abuse, assault, marginalization, or discrimination you might feel scared. Historical traumas can get kicked up into high gear with nightmares and feelings of panic. If this is you, it is time to prioritize self-care and to get resourced. Find ways to get grounded, breathe, meditate, move, dance, shake, go to a yoga class, be in nature, go for walks, be around compassionate and empathic people. Most importantly, return your awareness to the present moment and orient yourself towards a sense of safety in the here and now. Explore additional resources for trauma here.

Theme 2: Grief. Remember the stages of grief? Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. When facing change you might notice experiences of numbness, shock, and disorientation. You might experience alternating feelings of sadness, rage, despair, and hopelessness. Or you might bargain with thoughts— “If only I could do x,y, or z to change this outcome!” If you see yourself here, remember that the grief is a normal response to any change that disrupts your familiar orientation to the world. Grief is not linear. Grief does not live on a timeline. Talk about it, write about it, give yourself time and space. Know that acceptance doesn’t mean that you are ok with what happened, it means that you choose to go on with your life in a meaningful way. Learn more about healing grief and loss.

Theme 3: Kindness and Community. It has not been all bad. There has also been a tremendous outpouring of love this week. People are reaching beyond themselves, speaking out, creating safe spaces to process—to come together and to take the time for the acts of kindness that make daily life worth living. Perhaps you too have felt the desire to give a stranger a hug. Maybe you are on the receiving end. You are not alone. Take a moment to focus on the good as it exists in your life. Explore a gratitude practice. Find a gratitude practice here.

Theme 4: Take Action. The final theme this week has been a sense of a collective “wake up” call to action. Many speak of an awareness about how complacency has kept them overly reliant on our leaders to take action. I am hearing versions of “Now, it is up to me! I cannot expect that my leaders will stand up for my rights or the rights of disenfranchised individuals. It is my job to be an advocate, an ally, and to stand up for social justice!” If you find yourself in a position of privilege, ask yourself “what actions can I take?” If you are facing changes that are out of your control, explore how you can be the change you want to see in the world. Explore a diversity awareness practice here.

The Takeaway

While the unsettled times in our lives can be deeply painful and challenging they also can be the most profoundly opening and life transformational. We are tremendously resilient as human beings. I will close with two quotes to inspire you to stay open-hearted amidst change:

Pema Chodren from her book, When things fall apart:

The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes.”

Leonard Cohen from his song, Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring.Forget your perfect offering.There is a crack in everything.That’s how the light gets in.”

Related Posts:

Stay tuned for my book release!

The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole. It will be on Amazon soon!

About Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Dr. Arielle Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist, wife, and mother in Boulder, CO. She offers trainings for therapists, maintains a private practice, and has passions for the outdoors, yoga, and writing. Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole (Fall, 2016). She is the developer of Resilience-Informed Therapy which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic (body-centered) psychology and time-tested relational psychotherapy. Like Dr. Arielle Schwartz on Facebook, follow her on Linkedin and sign up for email updates to stay up to date with all her posts.


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