Adapting to a Stressful Situation

For years my husband and I have wanted to try cross-country skiing. We finally made it happen two weeks ago. A more beautiful spot you couldn’t imagine, with its snow-filled horse paddock, half frozen river meandering through the property and wooded ski trails. It was a perfect winter day – albeit cold, it was bright and clear. We rented our skis and poles and got directions to the easiest trail. Off we went!

It was more difficult than I imagined – far more tricky than downhill skiing. I fell a lot. I got back up and kept trying. Once or twice, I fell hard – hitting my head on the packed snow. The second time, I lay for a minute looking up at the bright sky and the silhouetted trees which seemed to swirl cartoon-like above me. I decided it was time to rest my dizzy head despite our friends having just joined us. Retrospectively, not continuing to push through was a good decision.

In the days that followed, I didn’t feel my best. Luckily, I had an appointment with a doctor booked for something else and mentioned my ongoing headache and dizziness to her. She asked questions, did some tests, and told me I had a concussion. That news altered the following weeks dramatically. With lots of time to think, it made me reflect on my pandemic-updated relationship to change.

There are many things that have been difficult and frustrating in these last years, not least of which are the number of times we’ve made plans and had to cancel or adjust them. Can you relate? It almost feels pointless to make plans more than a day ahead. That’s the disappointed skeptic making its voice heard. Along with this soupy mix of hard, there is something else that has developed in me. It’s something for which I am grateful, as I face my concussion.

Over the pandemic years, I’ve learned that much of life is not mine to control. I’ve become more adept at holding more lightly to plans and developing adaptability. Life is plan B (or C or D …) and in practicing this again and again over the past two years, I’ve become a bit more agile. I’ve learned to let go of resentment just a bit more quickly when things aren’t going according to plan. My relationship with change feels like it is becoming more healthy and helpful.

Here I am, two weeks into a concussion with varying degrees of constant headaches. I’m experiencing random dizziness which makes me feel like I am doing backflips. Just for the record, I’ve never actually done any backflips, but I imagine they might feel this way. I’ve slowed way down. I don’t read. I don’t watch TV or do puzzles – all normal activities that now create too much eye strain. I spend very selective time on my computer or phone – mostly for work. Then I cover my eyes and rest them. What a sight – a icepack on my head, a heat pack on my neck, a cover over my eyes. Not what I expected these weeks to look like.

Here’s what I am proud of: I have managed to keep doing a modified version of what is important to me. The key word here is modified. I didn’t just push through (which is my natural tendency). I didn’t hold the course no matter what. I have been more flexible about the way I do normal things. I’ve exercised a high degree of self care. I am not stewing with resentment or stuck on wishing I had never gone skiing that day. I’m prioritizing, adapting and I’m getting on with things. I’m finding other forms of entertainment, looking for what I can do as opposed to focusing on what I can’t. I’m taking care of my health even if that means letting go of some of what I planned.  I’m thankful for some of the change muscle I’ve built over these last years because it has made a tremendous difference in adapting to a stressful situation.

Despite the focus on my heath struggles in this post, my life is full of lots of good things at present. My husband is amazingly supportive, and we are planning a bucket list trip to the south of France to see the lavender fields in bloom later this year. I’ve started learning French in preparation! I’ve had some exciting potential job opportunities come up. I’m just a couple of months away from becoming a grandmother for the first time. There are so many other things I am grateful for – opportunities to serve, to push myself (I’m preparing to participate in the district level of the international speech competition for Toastmasters), time with family and wonderful friends, a beautiful place to live and so much more.

Life is good and part of the good is my own growth in relation to change. I’m less rigid than I used to be and more open to being adaptable. As my recent experience has shown me, these are characteristics that are tremendously helpful in facing the unexpected things in life.

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.

Serenity Prayer


Coaching tip – when you’re facing something challenging, try adjusting your expectations of yourself by asking, “What do I need right now?”

At Beyond the Shadow Coaching we believe in being attentive. During coaching sessions, you’ll feel what it’s like to have someone focused on you and what you need. No distractions. Our skills and experience will guide the conversation to give you insight and help you move towards your goals.

Read more Beyond the Shadow Coaching Promises

Sue Das, CPCC, ACC, CPQC, B Soc Sci (SW)

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