No matter how well we plan, no matter how much we try to prepare for our futures, major life transitions have a way of reminding us that we often lack control. As they say, life happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Many people struggle to cope with these changes. They withdraw, lash out, numb themselves, deny, or avoid the situation altogether. Facing it feels too scary. Dealing with it feels impossible.
But no matter your circumstances, life can and will throw obstacles in your path. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. Fortunately, you can learn how to manage these obstacles and bounce back. Let’s get into what you need to know.
Acknowledging The Change And The Emotions With It
All change- even positive change- can result in tremendous amounts of stress. Major life transitions can impact multiple parts of your identity, including your job, relationships, health, and finances.
Acknowledge that the change is happening. Aim to be present with those accompanying feelings, even if they initially feel strange and uncomfortable. It’s okay to have emotions. It’s okay to have a lot of emotions, even if they don’t make sense to you. You are human. Embrace the vulnerability that comes with that.
Be kind and compassionate to yourself as you navigate these new emotions. Many people shift into self-blame. They assume they shouldn’t feel a certain way. They compare themselves to others who “have it worse” and feel guilty for their struggles.
With that in mind, shaming doesn’t make you feel better. Instead, the opposite is true. When you impose shame-based thoughts on yourself, you typically feel more alone, insecure, and unprepared.
Ground Yourself With Routine
As change happens, stable foundations become even more crucial. We thrive on routine and predictability to keep ourselves on track.
Try to keep your schedule as regular as possible. That means waking up and going to sleep around the same time each day. If you walk your dog after lunch, keep walking your dog after lunch. If you clean your toilets on Monday, keep cleaning your toilets on Monday. Routine can help combat symptoms of depression and anxiety. That’s because it keeps you accountable for accomplishing designated tasks each day. Keeping up with these tasks helps you stay more focused and alert.
Of course, depending on the change, it may not be feasible to maintain all semblances of “normal.” In these cases, flexibility matters. Be willing to adapt to new ways of doing things. Stay curious about how you can optimize your routine despite the fluctuations.
Keep Your Physical Health In Check
Although it may feel tempting to lie on the couch and order takeout, you don’t want to make everyday habits. In times of stress, it’s more important than ever to keep yourself strong, healthy, and alert. After all, while you may not be able to control all your external stressors, you can control how you take care of your body.
Prioritize eating a well-rounded diet full of nutrient-rich foods. Move your body every day. Get enough sleep. Take your medication as prescribed and keep up with necessary doctor appointments.
Focus On Proactive Solutions
Venting and complaining can feel relieving- until they don’t. Helplessness often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you experience helplessness, you don’t do anything to improve the situation. As a result, you continue to feel upset and defeated. It’s a vicious cycle, and you must take action to combat it.
What are proactive solutions? They depend on the situation, but they may include:
Reaching out for professional support
Working towards a state of acceptance
Using healthy coping skills
Challenging your negative thinking
Changing your environment or reactions
If you don’t know the next step, taking a pause can also be proactive. In difficult times, many people are simply reactive. They wait until something bad has happened, and then they respond. As a result, they are often overwhelmed and ill-equipped to see the situation objectively. By taking a pause, you can reevaluate, regroup, and identify your next move.
Consider What You’re Gaining
During negative life events, people often dwell on the loss and adversity. As a result, they often experience profound hopelessness, grief, and despair. These feelings represent normal reactions to major life transitions.
While practicing gratitude may seem counterintuitive, this mindset can help cultivate happier feelings. For example, are you gaining more resilience? Have you realized your true priorities in life? Did you practice new coping skills like seeking support or journaling?
We will all face hardships during life. We can’t exactly account for how they will impact us, but pain, loss, and trauma are universal human experiences. That said, many people experience profound growth during and just after these moments.
Adapting And Coping With Major Life Transitions
Major life transitions often bring a new sense of normal into your world. This change can feel frightening, especially if you didn’t invite it. But you can and will move through this distress.
Moreover, you don’t have to cope with these changes alone. Support is paramount during these vulnerable times. Therapy can provide you with relief, guidance, and positive coping tools to navigate your unchartered territory.