Adjusting to Changes
If you’re on medication, then you’ll recognize this feeling. You meet with your doctor and they suggest taking a new prescription or over-the-counter medicine, for either an issue that is persistent or for a new one that has recently cropped up, and you leave the office with mixed emotions. You’re hopeful that the new medication will work, anxious to know what will happen if it doesn’t, while simultaneously realizing that you’re going to have to figure out how to juggle yet another medication in the litany of treatments you already take.
Starting a new cystic fibrosis medication
I recently started a new medication for my that, while on the surface doesn’t look like it requires any more care and consideration than the medications that I have been taking for thirty-five years, nonetheless, completely swamped me. My medical team went over the details with me and the pharmacist explained the nuances of it to me, but when I started the medication, I genuinely felt like it was going to be a straw that broke the camel’s back.
Despite being educated in what to do, when the parcel of medication arrived in the mail, I became so overwhelmed. The equipment required special sterilization methods, the medicine required a specific type of reconstitution, the scheduling and timing of the medication was something I just could not grasp, and for some reason, my brain thought, “Oh no. This is too much!”
It is normal to have feelings of overwhelm whenever anything new comes into our lives – good or bad. Change, whether big or small, requires shifting things around and getting used to a new normal. One thing that contributes to how we adjust to our new normal depends a lot on our age. When we are young, our brain's plasticity, or its ability to adapt to changes in the environment, is in its prime. Why is that? Well, we are constantly being stimulated by new things, of which one side effect is that it helps us determine positive and negative behaviors and consequences.
As we age, though, our brain gets used to doing certain things in a certain way, and because of that, introducing change and acclimating to that change can be challenging, but it isn’t impossible.1
Adjusting to my new medication
As we age, our brain establishes a lot of neural pathways that become more ingrained the more we do them. When something new is introduced, like a new cystic fibrosis medication, a new time schedule, or a new job, the brain experiences an upheaval of sorts because it now must fit the new stimulus into an existing framework.2
This upheaval can cause feelings of stress and overwhelm, which are all normal and natural responses but can keep us from acclimating to the change that is happening. In a sense, we have shaken up the system and are now trying to figure out how to lay the pieces back to together again.
Tips for coping with change
As individuals with illnesses, we acknowledge that change is kind of our normal. We know that nothing stays the same forever, so how do we cope with those changes when they come about? Here are ten ways that can help anyone cope with changes that come into their life:2
- Acknowledge that things are changing. Getting caught up in the fight of change can sometimes keep us from dealing with it.
- Realize that even good change can cause stress. Stress is your body’s way of reacting to change, whether good or bad.
- Keep up your regular schedule as much as possible. Keeping to your schedule can provide a sort of anchor that reminds you that some things are still the same.
- Try to eat healthy. In stressful times, it is normal to reach for foods that boost serotonin but try to infuse healthy foods into your diet as much as possible.
- Try to exercise if you are able. Even a walk outside can be helpful, but make sure to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- Seek support. Having supportive friends and family can help reduce stress during change.
- Journal. Write down the positives that have come from this change.
- Get proactive. Take charge and figure out what needs to be done before something happens.
- Vent, but to a point. Make sure that when expressing the stressors of change that the conversations are geared toward action.
- Back away from social media. Comparing your life to others’ will only increase stress.
Change is inevitable
Learning how to juggle one more thing in your life is something to be expected, but when that change occurs it can be overwhelming. Remember that the emotions you're feeling are valid and make small steps to adjust to the shifts in your lifestyle. Our brains are not the enemy and it is doing its best to help us adjust, but sometimes it needs a little help, too!
Have you or a loved one with cystic fibrosis needed to adjust to a new medication or other change? Share your experience with us!
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