How to Keep Pushing for Change When the Road is Long

 Orlando therapist Krista Bringley, LMHC, discusses how to keep pushing for change when the road is long.

Krista Jean Bringley, MA
Licensed Mental Health Counselor

There’s so much happening in the world and our country lately, and it’s emotional, heavy stuff. Even just thinking about this stuff can be exhausting, much less trying to take action. Of course issues don’t change without action, so, if we want change, action is necessary. Worse yet, many of these issues took a long time to create, so the road to change will also take significant time. And finally it gets a little tougher still because we can’t control the actions of others, so any action spent on trying to influence others to change might not bear fruit. Are you tired yet? It’s so easy to feel tired when we think about big problems, long-term problems, problems that many people contribute to. And if our values are such that change is important to us, we still want to find a way to act. So how do we figure out how to act enough to create change while still not falling over from complete exhaustion, which takes us out of the fight?

Have you heard of the Greek myth about a man condemned to forever push a rock up a hill and then watch it roll back down, only to start pushing it back up again? His name was Sisyphus, and it is from this myth that we get the idea of a Sisyphean task: a task that is endless and ineffective. While it might feel like you are Sisyphus and that you’re never going to get anywhere no matter how hard you try, I think there are things we can do to make sure we don’t feel defeated and don’t want to give up.
Find ways to rest! – Let’s start by remembering that we’re not condemned, there aren’t Greek gods forcing us to do this or making the terrain any certain way. If you think about pushing an actual rock up an actual hill, chances are good that there are some parts of a path that are really steep or difficult and others that are relatively easier. There might even be some flat parts, or some areas where you could let the rock rest without it rolling backwards. Worst case scenario, you could lean against the rock while you rest. Point being, you don’t have to always be pushing. What this really means is that it’s not only ok, it is necessary to take some time for you! Maybe that means you don’t say yes to absolutely everything you could do (sometimes you say yes to you instead). Maybe it means making sure you get exercise, sleep, nutrition, or other self-care activities like time with friends, reading, writing, creating art, or listening to music. Assessing your energy and deciding what is realistic, so you’re not left trying to give when you’re all out of energy. An especially good way to get some relief is to…
Get connected! – Going it alone usually makes things seem even tougher. Being with others who will understand when you talk about what’s difficult will help you know you’re not alone (or crazy for feeling how you do), and if you’re working together that rock you’re pushing will be a little bit lighter or you can even trade off if there’s no flat area in sight! Being connected can be especially helpful when you take a rest – you’ll be able to remind yourself that work is still happening, just through your teammates. Taking care of yourself and reminding others to take care of themselves can help alleviate the guilt we might feel from taking time for self-care.
Take it step by step! – Sometimes when we look at how far there is to go, we can get discouraged. Remember your goal, but also look closer ahead. What are you doing today? How can you honor your day-to-day actions as important? You might think you’ll never get to the top of this hill, but each small step is one bit closer. Another way to help yourself take it step by step is to change your perspective – we’re very good at looking forward at how much isn’t done, but it is also possible to look back at where we’ve been (and remember we’re not still exactly there). The path may not be as direct as we hoped, and we can still acknowledge progress, even if it is just a shift in our mindset, like improving at self-care so we can continue the climb!
Find ways to rest! – It’s so important that I’m going to say it again. Take care of yourself or there won’t be much self to use towards change! Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s survival!
Making big change is very difficult, especially if you’re thinking about change on a national or cultural level. Whether you are attempting to help change structural racism or a long-standing personal habit, remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’d like a partner in figuring out how to manage your feelings, allow yourself to rest, or look at change differently, give us a call at Life Skills Resource Group Orlando at 407-355-7378. Our Orlando counselors are ready to walk with you on your journey.