Why Change feels like a Sabre-Toothed Tiger and How to Tame It.

I recently heard for the first time the quote from Olivia E. Butler

“All that you touch, You Change.
All that you Change, Changes you.
The only lasting truth is Change.”

..and it was love at first sight.

If your life experience is somehow similar to mine, you might also have noticed that change is inevitable.

I am talking about events like a new job, a move to a new city, the passage from university to working life, a marriage, dealing with a tough sickness, a newborn, grief or any other significant life transition. Change can be exciting but can also trigger a range of emotions, including anxiety, fear, and uncertainty, which can potentially stay with us longer than expected.

Learning how humans are impacted during transitions had a MASSIVE impact on how I navigate uncertainty nowadays.

With this article, I’d love to transfer to you some of that knowledge.

Our Brain Through Change

So, why is Change so hard?

Why is our Comfort Zone so much comfier than our Growth zone?

The answer is in the brain.
Really, Maria? The brain? Not in our big toe?
Nope, it’s in the brain.

In short: according to neuroscientists, the answer lies in human evolution.

Our ancestors depended as much on social belonging and status for survival as they did on food and shelter. Uncertainty and instability could realistically lead them to an early game-over.

Our brain is hard-wired to minimize threats and maximize rewards.

If the brain detects the change at hand as threatening for any reason, it will want to keep us alive in our perceived certainty, and it will resist or avoid the change at all costs — also known as the “fight-flight-freeze” mode.

Now, even though the risk of literally dying for starting my own business is pretty slim, and I can potentially revert my choice and go back to the corporate world at any time, my brain still reacts as if  I am about to meet a sabre-toothed tiger on my way to my co-working space.

Now, you probably see the bug in the system:

The human brain is hard-wired to seek certainty at all costs, but human existence is a transition by design.

How to tame the Tiger

Even when our emotional brain lights up like a Funky Town Disco Ball, luckily enough, we always have the rational part of our brain that knows there’s no tiger in front of us.

Let’s have a look at a few steps to walk out of our triggered state:

  • 1

    Recognize: whenever we feel stuck, we must begin with the willingness to see that it is so. Create an opportunity to slow down, take a few deep breaths and notice the impact the situation has on you. By recognizing what we’re going through, we step out of denial.

  • 2

    Allow the experience to arise:  the human experience is a continuous transition, and you are just experiencing how being a human feels like right now. It’s nothing personal. This doesn’t mean that we cannot work to improve things: this is not an invitation to become passive. On the contrary, this is an active intention to include whatever is part of us right now.

  • 3

    Call it out: what are you feeling right now? Anxious? Frustrated? Angry? Resistant? Psychologists showed that naming our emotions tends to diffuse their charge and lessen the burden they create. Call it out whatever is arising and whisper to yourself, “This belongs too”.

  • 4

    Nurturing: for a moment, take a step back and refer to yourself in the third person: “What should Maria do right now?” “Which qualities would help Maria right now?”

  • 5

    Repeat any time you notice the same repetitive thoughts or emotions arising.

To wrap up…

We all get stuck now and then. It’s easy to get swept into a downward spiral of change, guilt, frustration and autopilot.

We cannot stop changes from happening or emotions from arising. This is just part of life and how our brains work.

What we can do better is learn how to navigate it. And this is a skill that will come in handy in various moments throughout life.

If you’re going through a challenging transition, I would love to support you during our journey.

If you think it can interest you, I invite you to download My Free Coaching Workbook and start walking through its exercises.

Thank you for reading until here.

Much love,