It's the lovely month of May when nearly every senior resident begins the process of relocating to a new area, home, and job. Some are bringing families, large and small, and many are dealing with the emotional issues that make change difficult. It doesn't matter if you are going from hovel to penthouse or stranger-in-town to bosom-of-the-family, major change is major scary for most people. It means a departure from comfort zones, and can manifest with procrastination, depression, and other less than desirable reactions. The good news is there are some wonderful exercises and activities the whole family can do to positively prepare for change.
It all begins with visualization. If you spent any time watching the athletes prepare to compete at the Olympics a few months ago, you saw skiers and lugers and bobsledders preparing their runs using visualization. It looked like they were in a virtual reality booth as they stood, eyes closed, moving their bodies with the twists and turns of the course they saw in their minds. If it's good enough for Lindsey Vonn, it works for me! This is something you can teach your kids to do and have fun with as well.
Have everyone sit together in a quiet, relaxed setting with no interruptions. Select one person to direct the exercise, and begin with the more negative aspects of the change. Visualize the activities involved with relocation that can spur negative emotion: taking pictures down from the walls, packing up books, wrapping treasured items for transport, saying goodbye to friends and colleagues. The most important part of the exercise is to feel the emotions that will surface with these visuals. Don't fight them; just let them flow. When you do these activities for real, and these emotions surface again, you will be able to say, “I recognize this, and I can deal with it.” The negative emotions will fade far more quickly when they are expected and familiar.
Move on immediately to all the positive aspects. It's the exact same exercise except this time you visualize your new home. Think of having all that extra income to apply toward a fun lifestyle. How about building a retirement account that will ensure security for your family? Your kids can visualize potential new friends, activities, sports opportunities, and cool vacations. You and your spouse can visualize that new Mercedes you've been eyeing for years! Whatever makes you smile in anticipation or gives you the “warm and fuzzies” are the places you want to go in your head.
These exercises can be done alone or as a family. If you do them as a family, which I highly recommend, be sure to discuss what each of you experienced after each session, providing support and understanding. Don't be upset if the tears flow a bit, particularly from younger kids; it's natural and healthy. I recommend attempting this adventure more than once. As anyone who uses visualization regularly will tell you, it gets better with practice.
Another good preparatory activity is to do as much research on your new home as possible. Go to the web, and look for fun facts about your new location. Try Chamber of Commerce and visitors' bureau sites for the area. Google for photos, pull out the old Rand McNally Road Atlas, and look for interesting venues in the region, places you might want to check out, national parks, anything that is within a reasonable drive for a weekend jaunt. Hit the library, and see if you can find any books on the area as well. AAA offices often have great maps and other items that may feature your new hometown. As a physician, the more you know about the hospital you are going to, the more prepared you will be to hit the ground running. Read the hospital web site page by page, then Google for press releases and news articles from the past few years. Often you will see announcements of new additions to staff with bios, community outreach programs, and other news and events. This kind of research will give you a strong picture of how the hospital fits into and works within the community. Walking in the door the first day with that kind of knowledge under your hat will give you a strong advantage.
Another exercise the whole family can do is “positive power listing.” Start by having everyone sit around the kitchen table, and have each person create a list of the things they are looking forward to. Then combine all those items onto a positive power list, and post it where it's easily accessible. Keep a pencil handy so new items can be added easily. The more concrete, positive elements you can amass, the more positive things there are to focus on. When the willies hit anyone in the family, when someone's feeling nervous or depressed, pull down the power list and get everyone positive again!
One of the most positive things you can do for yourself and your family is preparation. Handle the details of the relocation as soon as possible, leaving time to tie up loose ends as they arise. Nothing puts a downer on a move more than chaos, and chaos only happens when you don't prepare in a timely fashion. Try not to leave anything to the last minute — school enrollment, insurance, housing, transportation, and, of course, licensing and credentials. Your new employer has an entire staff dedicated to assisting physicians with relocation, often called Physician Affairs, and they can assist you with most of the major elements of a move. If you are going to be a hospital employee, you may have already been in touch with this staff. If you are joining a group and they have not provided you with an area expert, ask if the hospital Physician Affairs staff is available to you. I'm sure they'll put you in touch with the right people. The key here is to ask for help if you need it.
Having moved more times in my life than I can count on all digits, I know how unsettling the process can be. I am, however, a strong believer in change. Change is opportunity, and change is progress. To make the most of change, you have to confront it with positive anticipation and a whole lot of lists!