Sunday, April 4, 2010

Taking Time to Adjust

If I am planning on doing one thing, but if for some reason my plans have to change, it takes me a little while for me to adjust.

Once I take the time to adjust (mentally and emotionally), then I'm usually fine.  But I have to allow myself a little while to get used to the new idea.

Having to change my plans used to put me in a bad mood.  Sometimes this bad mood would make me not want to participate in the new plans.

Now, I just try to recognize that I'm the type of person who needs a little extra time to think about the change in plans.  If I start feeling negative, I try to realize that this is just a feeling that is a reaction to the change, rather than a feeling that should influence whether I participate in the new activity.

It's not that I don't like change.  I just don't like fast, unexpected change. It takes energy to deal with.  But sometimes fast, unexpected change is for the better. And I have a great time doing something unexpected.

I'm not talking about the really big things in life that should require extensive thought - like moving, or which college to go to, or whether to get married.  I'm talking about the small every day things that interrupt my routine, unexpectantly.  It might be because the weather has changed, or because I receive a phone call, or because of some other pretty minor thing.

I know that I'm not alone with this character trait.  People with autism have a similar reaction to the unexpected:

"People with autism prefer routines and any unexpected change in this routine can be upsetting. Young children may impose their own routines, such as insisting on always walking the same route to school. At school, they may get upset by sudden changes, such as an alteration to the timetable. People with autism need structure to their day. Anything untoward or unexpected happening may well cause their levels of anxiety to rise significantly, and possibly cause them to react unpredictably." (National Autistic Society)

Although I don't have autism, this description describes me.  Is it a symptom common with others who have Bipolar Disorder?  I don't know, but I thought I would throw it out there.

Maybe it's just all about avoiding anxiety, because increased levels of anxiety cause more mood symptoms.

(Picture is courtesy of mikebaird)

I know that if I am planning on doing sometime, I usually take some time beforehand to prepare for it.  I'll think about possible situations that might occur and how to react. It is like a dress rehearsal in my mind.  If I feel anxious, I'll try to coach myself.  I might even take a medication if I need something to relax.  I try to remember to bring things with me that might help. I usually like to have a bottle of water and a few snacks.  I usually bring with a sweater or jacket.  I don't like to feel cold or hungry. It's enough just keeping my mood going well :)  And I can stay in a much better mood if I feel well physically.  

But some of life's best adventures can happen with little notice.  Go on a drive with a friend, take a shopping trip, or a trip to the beach.  It's all fun and in many cases doesn't require extensive planning.  But for me, I need about 15 minutes to really think about it.  If I can get my rational mind to examine the new activity and decide whether it is a good plan or not, then usually I can get my emotional self to listen to my rational self, and be my normally cheerful and happy self, and all is well.

Afterall.... "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." - Seneca

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