Saturday, February 24, 2018

Learn to Adapt

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

Let’s talk flexibility, and not the pretzel-pose yoga position kind. Being mentally flexible allows us to better adapt to our everyday evolving world. And that even trumps toe-touching …

Adaptability: Able to adjust oneself readily to different conditions and environments. Capable of being adapted.

change ahead, picWith change being the only constant in life, it is not surprising the most successful of us are those who can easily adapt. This winter’s weather has been the perfect exercise in adaptability. Unfortunately, snow and ice storms can be unpredictable. We are left wondering if meetings will be canceled, schools closed, and grocery stores pillaged of bread and milk. Just when we are motivated with a game plan, the game gets called.

In reality, each day is a mystery to unfold. Three feet of snow may not prevent a workout, but other obstacles may. Icy sidewalks may not cause a fall, but a strewn dog toy could. An unexpected surgery, a loved one’s untimely death, a job change, a pregnancy, a marriage, a divorce. The good and bad, big and small, life events continuously impact us. Be flexible when you ride these waves, or risk putting a kink in more than your neck.

Establish Healthy Habits

Nourishing yourself, physically and emotionally, has a tremendous impact on adaptability. A well-nourished and rested body is better able to combat stressors. Just as poor diet and sleep deprivation weaken immunity to illness, they also decrease our tolerance for annoying situations. It becomes more difficult to switch to Plan B when life throws a curve ball, many of which require Plans C and D as well.

Commit to everyday self-care. Make it nonnegotiable while remaining flexible. If a carpool issue arises and prevents your morning workout, plan to squeeze in a mini fitness session after work or a brisk walk at lunchtime. If your morning carpool is a frequent interference, rethink your workout schedule to better accommodate.

Power off and go to bed when tired.
Power off and go to bed when tired.

Know your weaknesses. You need to do more than dream for an earlier bedtime. Take advantage of your body’s circadian rhythm. A telltale yawn should signal the shutdown of electronics. Ignore the urge to plow through, get your “second wind,” and spend hours catching up on e-mails. Perhaps you suffer from dead-weight syndrome. Too tired to do more than channel surf,  you remain stranded on the couch to doze all night. Determine the reason a specific healthy habit eludes you and a fix will become clear.

Stop tolerating chronic, low-grade stressors. Everything from a button that sticks to a broken appliance contributes to our daily stress level. These temperamental things may be easily cajoled into working correctly. Yet, when short on time, energy, and patience, they may be the difference between going with the flow and the well going dry. Repair what you can for the strength to overcome what you cannot.

Mind travel, and renew with each rep.
Mind travel, and renew with each rep.

Make health a priority, including during stressful times. It is much easier to be adaptable when you feel energized and strong. Burn off life’s trivial irritations with an intense workout. “Intense” simply can mean a workout that occupies your mind as much as your body. Go somewhere else in your mind while you burn off calories and tension.

Prepare in advance so healthful meals are ready to enjoy. A body weighed down with sodium and sugar from processed or fast foods, and their effects on brainpower, is not figuratively light enough to adapt. Adapting to the unexpected requires you to be sharp, not bloated.

Enjoy a therapeutic escape. When life demands acceptance of the unexpected, remain centered through soothing activities. Meditation is a traditional favorite, which promotes balance and inner calm. It is scientifically proven to lower blood pressure and heart rate, and improve other common ailments. When done regularly, mediation promotes an ongoing state of calm. Reactions to stress become less intense. Stressors themselves more easily are put into perspective.

There are a variety of meditation techniques. For those trying to become more adaptable, thought-labeling meditation may be beneficial. During this process, you identify any thought patterns that may interfere with your ability to adapt. Unlike traditional meditation where thoughts are observed and released, this technique requires you to identify thoughts and label them. Some suggested labels are: constructive, obsessive, fearful, worrisome, overwhelming, happy, hopeful.

Consider how these thoughts physically affect you. Take what you learn to cultivate thoughts conducive of a healthy lifestyle. Recognize negative thoughts, which can cause you to overlook possibilities often presented through change. Solutions and possibilities often surface after meditation. Many believe answers lie within us, we just need to allow them to present themselves.

You may find a favorite hobby or activity has a therapeutic effect. Some effective therapies include:

  • Working with art mediums like clay, paint, or sketching pencils can be a powerful release.
  • Playing ball, running, or contemplating nature during a hike.
  • Completing repetitive chores like washing dishes, folding clothes, or home improvements/repairs like tiling, woodworking, or gardening. This has the double benefit of enhancing the home, your oasis from the world.

Accept What You Cannot Change

The strength to accept change is fundamental enough to be part of a traditional prayer. Yet, it is so difficult, especially for all the Type A personalities. Surrender control of whatever life shift you must face against your will. Approach with an empowered mindset (which is easier if you established the aforementioned healthy habits).

Consider your new situation a personal challenge. This is not to make light of life-altering changes. Patients with fatal illnesses even manage to adapt with this attitude. You can, too. Focus on ways to accept what you have been dealt. This helps reduce fear and feelings of threat. The fates have challenged you. Do your best to be a winner.

Redefine your idea of winning. An adaptable person knows winning is all in how you play the game. Striving for perfection is unrealistic and predisposes us to failure. Mistakes are part of any process. They do not indicate an inability to succeed. Make peace with your setbacks. Try harder. Try again.

Accept what the tides bring.
Accept what the tides bring.

If you missed a workout, ate a candy bar, or failed to reach your goal weight in your ideal timeframe, you are just like every other human. To recognize your shortcomings in itself is positive. Before a downward spiral occurs, you can create the opportunity to return from a setback and continue toward goals.

Success is not about obtaining perfection– either a perfect situation, score, weight, date night, party, fill in your personal wish. Success is about capitalizing on what works. Seize shreds that resemble your ultimate goal along the way and celebrate them.

You may not have lost 10 pounds, but you increased the weight of your dumb bells and the incline on your treadmill. A winter storm may have postponed a dinner party, but you can make the most of a quiet evening at home. Counteract life’s disappointments. Adapt to situations by cultivating a positive mindset. Banish perfection. A full life, mistakes and triumphs, has no room for it.

Image Credits

Winds of change (introductory photo):

Change ahead:

Couch potato:

Crashing waves:


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