The Changes Ahead

“You learn from a conglomeration of the incredible past – whatever experience gotten in any way whatsoever.”Bob Dylan

 

Many of us have seen a great deal of change in the last few months. For some, it’s been a bit too much change! However, I can guarantee you that change is one of the few things we can count on next to death and taxes, as they say. When we’re in the midst of change, it can result in a smorgasbord of emotions. Grief, anger, fear, isolation, and anxiety being just a few of the negative effects on the body and soul. But, change can also evoke excitement, motivation, power, and purpose. Depending on what path you choose to take.

My wife and I are about to head out on one of the first big adventures we have experienced in years. Moving to Duluth nearly four years ago was perhaps one of the greatest adventures in my life. I had to make some personal changes during this transition, leaving behind a life that was lived entirely in the West. I was warned in advance about the bugs, the humidity, the bone-chilling cold, and of course, the hot dishes. However, nothing prepared me for the remarkable beauty of the open waters and the rolling hillside that would become my home.

It wasn’t an easy transition, as I had to leave behind the comforts of a life lived so long in one place. My family, friends, sagebrush, and mountains were all left in the rearview mirror. When I close my eyes, I can still feel the solace of open spaces. However, this is not a soliloquy on sentimentality, but rather about the inspiration that change can enact on the soul if you are open to it.

Change is often seen as a problem, an unnecessary intrusion into our life of comfort. We long for comfort. However, when people are busy making change they don’t often step back just that little bit to think about the process itself.

The beginning of change starts in the pre-contemplation phase. This is a very active phase, where one senses the winds of change, but still doesn’t see the potential threat or problem to themselves.  Pre-contemplators will often underestimate the value of change and overestimate the challenges and problems that come with it. They may also downplay or deny the magnitude of the problem. In other words, change is on the horizon but has yet to show up in a more personal way.

The next stage of change is contemplation. At this stage, people are seeing the bigger picture and paying more attention to those who have succeeded. They are weighing the consequences of changing versus the consequences of not changing. “Can I do this? What will be the cost? How bad is the problem really? Could I get away with not doing anything?” Contemplators can be ambivalent and put off making any necessary changes. However, putting off action can also create an unseen tension in thinking change is possible. This tension can push people back to the pre-contemplation phase of reevaluation or it can result in taking action towards the change.

Eventually, change can evolve to the point where action is necessary to adapt. This is the stage that people are very familiar with because it is the most visible stage. If someone is forced into action without going through the previous stages, they will often struggle and resist. And, as they say, “the real struggle with change is in the resistance.” The action stage can be broken down into stages as well, but generally successful change requires consistency and continued effort. This stage requires a commitment to stay focused and work actively at making changes. Creating new habits requires this effort.

I’m sorry to say that the change process is a never-ending cycle, as much as we tend to resist. I really struggle with the cliché “be in the moment.” But, it is often in the moment where we are truly effective and objective. Yes, there is the issue of goals and dreams. However, when we can adjust to the winds of change and the storms of the moment, we can take action and we can adapt. So, as we head off on our new adventure, I can’t focus on the weather, the possibility of a flat tire, or an overbooked campground.  Instead, I can only prepare my heart for the wonders that change can provide. The open road, the sudden downpour, the chartreuse sunset, and the grasslands of North Dakota. I’ll see you when we get back, and I guarantee you I will be a changed man.

 

Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

Between Routine and Grief

“What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”  -Helen Keller

 

I realized early in life that I am not at my best in the morning hours. I rise most mornings at 5:30 to the sound of birdsong and distant train rumblings far away. It’s a peaceful awakening. I definitely don’t bounce out of bed with a spring in my step, but I do get out of bed with purpose. It’s a time that I find solace and peace, a deliberate act that is now part of my routine.

Experts say that almost 80 % of our day is driven by routine and habit, and when we are forced to change our routine, it results in chaos to our system. Our brain, wired for response and cue, is now at a loss of direction and guidance. I recently experienced this situation first hand, and it totally disrupted my morning routine, one that I had spent years perfecting.

One of the steps of my morning routine is to enjoy my first cup of coffee and retrieve the newspaper from the front steps. There is just something so peaceful about the aroma and tang of a good cup of coffee, coupled with the news the paper provides. The paper also serves to connect me to the community, providing snippets of events, functions, and tidbits that I would otherwise not be aware of. I knew that this pandemic was having a devastating effect on the newsprint industry and that our local paper would not be spared of cutbacks. They even warned the readers how and when it would take place, but somehow I resisted the inevitable. 

Yes, my morning routine was disrupted this month when the Duluth News Tribune was reduced to only delivering a real paper twice weekly. Though they offered readers the option of online membership, things were just not the same. I noticed this some time ago. Holding a Kindle or smartphone is NOT the same as holding a book with a spine and pages. Now, before you accuse me of whining into my coffee, hear me out, please. I am grieving! It’s not just the fact that I don’t have my paper in my study with my coffee, but that this change signifies the end of an era. I either have to change my routine or replace it with something else. 

This pandemic crisis has meant that many of our routines have changed on a global scale. Sometimes grief is the result. It hurts when something important has been taken from us. The result is always the same, we feel bereft and confused. Routine helps us cope with change, and more importantly, it helps to reduce stress levels. When your life is organized and set in a routine, you know exactly what to expect.  This takes the guessing out of the equation, alleviating the symptoms of anxiety. Our brain craves routine, and so does our entire limbic system.

It appears that we will most likely continue to see change and disruption to our routines in the coming days and months. Knowing that, how do we prepare our mindset for the uncertainty ahead? I have shared in some of my past writings that my new routine is meditation and mindfulness. It has replaced my morning newspaper. So how do we replace those lost routines?       

Here are but a few suggestions to consider:                                                                                                                 

1) Find humor in the situation. Try not to take yourself or the situation so seriously. This mindset can provide some degree of levity and lightness to your heavy load. What’s interesting about humor is that it can be a shared experience and it helps in the healing process.  

 2) Talk about the problems more than the feelings. We all have feelings and have been taught to “suck it up,” but research has shown that continually talking about our negative emotions can actually hinder our healing process. I’m not saying to dismiss your feelings, but consider spending more time actively identifying the problem and zero in on the solution.                                                           

3) Focus on your values instead of your fears. Reminding ourselves of what’s important to us; family, friends, faith, achievements, great music, artistic expression, connectedness, and so on can create a surprisingly effective buffer against whatever troubles may be ailing us.

I’ve heard it said that our post-pandemic world will not look nearly like our pre-pandemic world, and I wonder if many of us remain paralyzed by this thought. The first stage of grief is paralysis, a sudden lack of options, and the confusion of disruption. However, the important thing in dealing with grief is understanding your emotions and your capacity to overcome and even flourish in the days ahead.

 

Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.

Update to RSI’s Inclusion and Diversity Plan

Written by: Claire Farmer-Lies, Marketing and Communications Specialist

In our statement shared with our community and all of our employees on June 11th, RSI Leadership addressed the recent events in Minneapolis and around the country that have been happening in response to the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day. In that message, we also recognized the need for RSI to do more to address our own contributions or complacency in systemic inequalities that disproportionately affect people of color. It is time for us to reflect on our role and practices as a healthcare provider and an employer so that we can do better.

It’s important that we start this process by listening to the experiences and ideas from our employees, especially Black, Indigenous, people of color, people with disabilities, and people from the LGBTQ+ community. Our ultimate goal in having these conversations is to craft a corporate inclusion plan for our company that is sustainable, fair, and employee-driven. It will lay the foundation for us to continue to do the important work that we do, but with a larger focus on equity and inclusion.

We have scheduled listening sessions with our employees in the coming weeks to get their ideas for how we can sustain more inclusive and equitable working and living spaces, which will include in-person sessions, virtual sessions, 1:1 conversations, and anonymous submissions. Together, we can create more balanced workplaces, living spaces, and a community that doesn’t just tolerate differences, but appreciates and values them. We will continue to share updates throughout this process.

Cultivating Hope

By: Jeff Mortimore, RSI Community Connector

 

I have been digging into the concept of hope lately. I must admit that I haven’t always thought that hope is the best strategy. Instead, I felt like hope was the final straw. A desperate attempt to reach out for a solution. Instead, after digging a little deeper, I have found that hope is really a mindset, and in order for us to build this skill, we must first focus on our current ways of thinking. 

These are certainly interesting times we live in, unprecedented as they say. We’ve needed to work extra hard to manage our emotions well. We’ve also had our fair share of mixed feelings during this time. Feelings such as anger, righteousness, blame, fear, and sadness can wash over us throughout the day, and the roller coaster of emotion can fray the edges of hope.

Just when you feel like you’ve found your rhythm, life can throw a wrench into the situation. Life is full of interruption and change, some positive and some negative, if not downright devastating. So, how do we really learn about hope, and how do we practically apply it? One of the key processes in developing hope is that when we are faced with a situation we are not happy with or that hurts us, we need to understand that we cannot change the situation, but we can change how we REACT to it!

The first key to developing hope is to know and understand the situation. Knowledge is power, and stopping the emotional discourse and negative dialogue helps put us on the path to a healthier start. Knowledge is a very powerful tool to help you move forward, and the more you know about the situation and different perspectives, the easier it is for you to take the next steps with more clarity and objectivity.  

You’ve probably heard the phrase “trust your gut” before. This is actually more realistic than it sounds, and here’s why: We have receptors in our guts that are wired to our brains. These receptors help trigger safety reactions to fear, happiness, and even intuition. Think of the last argument you were in and how it might have made you feel sick to your stomach. Or, think of the last time you had to take on a huge endeavor such as public speaking, running a marathon, or going to the dentist. Did you experience the feeling of butterflies in your stomach? Your gut will often react before your brain has had a chance to absorb and digest all of the information. Its reaction is often the right one, as it doesn’t rely on the chemical reactions of fear or happiness, it just responds to the situation and the information presented.

Ultimately, hope is really about action. When faced with a tough situation, start by looking at the problem and writing down what steps need to be taken to help change or resolve the issue. This will help to remove your mindset from the negative and into a more positive action-focused mind frame. This may take some time and practice, but it’s important to persevere. When you begin to look a bit deeper into hope, you will begin to see the seeds of resilience, self-awareness, confidence and, yes, happiness! Mastering hope is a learned skill. Hope is always an option, and one I encourage you to use in these times when we are bombarded with messages of despair. 

Learn more about Jeff’s work at RSI on our Community Connections page.