Even before the leaves turn color, the end of summer is punctuated by the beginning of the school year for many people. Routines change, with bedtimes and homework for many, in addition to putting away the golf clubs and tennis racquets in anticipation of skiing and sledding and skating. For those who no longer manage family and school routines, there are still changes of the fall season. As children are busy with challenges and stressors of school, some people are facing an empty nest or job stress. And then, on top of that, Pastor Samuelson has retired and we need to get used to the guy in the bow tie! Thankfully we have come to know Pastor Jacobson over the past several years, but now he is in a new role as senior pastor – and some people have anxiety about what else may change, with new leadership. Even positive and good changes cause stress and require adaptation.
It would be short-sighted to gloss over all life changes, at all times and in all places. There is age-related stress on those grade-schoolers learning to adapt to new teachers, perhaps new friends, new expectations – which also is true for college-bound persons as well as those changing or seeking employment. It is no easier for adults to make changes, but it is quite likely adults have had to make more changes as the years have gone by. Typically they have faced the challenges, have learned new skills (again), and have more experience with adapting to a “new normal.”
There are some guidelines to assist in integrating a new normal. Remember, no one can know everything! Accept assistance, accept that offer of support and understanding of difficulties, when the challenge may be physical, intellectual, or emotional. Give yourself time, assuring yourself (and/or others) that adjusting to changes and challenges is a process that takes time.
It may be helpful to realize and observe that not everyone wants to ask for help. Be proactive to offer a hand or an arm to support someone’s imbalance or uncertainty with vision changes, for example. Adapting to changes can stress any of us, which leads to the question of how to cope with stress. Even in the process of change, continue opportunities to do those things that you enjoy or that you know will relieve stress – enjoy doing or watching some fall sports, or take time to clean closets, basement, or garage. Pace those activities, it’s not realistic to do all in one day! But also, celebrate your accomplishments with the enjoyment of a wood fire, perhaps an opportunity to roast marshmallows or make smores. Face the reality of coming winter by making positive plans. Examples of that might be to plan for a “getaway” to warmer weather sometime during the winter, i.e. “spring break.” Put reading materials in an easily-accessible spot, find puzzles that interest you and your family, make plans to share rides when needed, review your favorite recipes for soup and stock up the ingredients.
For all ages, it is helpful to tend to the following aspects of healthy living: 1) get enough sleep every night; 2) maintain a healthy diet; 3) keep brain exercises in your routine, from elementary school through late ages and stages of life; 4) volunteer and otherwise participate in community service or activities that you enjoy to keep social skills current, and you will find it enriching in all areas of life; and 5) maintain participation in our faith community, live with purpose, seek out time with other people.
May the peace of our Lord walk with you in all times and in all places, as the leaves change color.