In face of change, care for body, soul

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WASHINGTON (CNS) - Change is said to be the only constant in today's world. Yet when it comes, it often throws people off guard and causes stress and anxiety.

The key to successfully dealing with change is preparing for it (when possible) and making necessary adjustments when it happens, according to health experts.

"All major changes involve a component of loss at their center," said Cara DiMarco, author of Moving Through Life Transitions With Power and Purpose. She said that loss could be anything from the loss of a particular routine to the sense of lost opportunities and lost hope.

DiMarco's suggestions for dealing with change are posted on the website of Dignity Health, formerly Catholic Healthcare West, which is based in San Francisco and sponsored by a number of women's religious congregations.

The author suggests that people give themselves time to adapt to change, such as starting a new job, and should not expect to adjust to a new routine immediately without missing a beat.

When possible, she also suggests planning for change as a way to have more options. For example, parents of children in high school know their children will eventually leave home and in preparation for that they should think about what they will do with their newfound time.

DiMarco also suggests that people try to learn from change, noting that one can "learn from every experience" even if the person didn't choose for a particular experience to happen. "If you can find the meaning or valuable outcome behind it, that experience will become part of your internal world, rather than an external agent acting on you," she said.

Beliefnet.com, an online community that provides information about various religious and spiritual beliefs has a section devoted to what the Bible has to say about change. The introduction notes that many people cope with unexpected change on a grand scale in the world around them and on smaller scale because of their own personal circumstances.

"The Bible offers us very clear reminders that we can always rely on God. No matter how dire our circumstances, no matter how uncertain everything may be, God is eternal," it says.

Several highlighted passages are from the Book of Psalms where the psalmist frequently likens God to an anchor with descriptions such as rock, fortress, deliverer, shield or stronghold.

Although relying on one's faith is a major way to navigate through change there are also practical nonspiritual tools people can use.

Helpguide.org, an online resource in collaboration with Harvard Medical School Health Publications, urges people to cope with stress - often caused by change - in healthy ways. Unhealthy responses include smoking, overeating, sleeping too much, withdrawing from friends or spending too much time watching television or on the computer.

The guide recommends that people make time for fun and relaxation, eat right, and exercise to get the necessary mental and physical strength to cope with life's challenges.

Without directly referring to the Serenity Prayer, a prayer adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs, the online guide offers similar advice.

The prayer says in part: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

The online guide notes that "some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can't prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it's easier than railing against a situation you can't change."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970