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Dealing with Major Life Changes

Some life changes are surprises, but not all.  For those that you know are approaching you can be proactive and set yourself up for the smoothest transition possible.  For the surprises in life it is a great idea to take time out of reacting in order to ground and remind yourself of healthy and effective ways to adjust.

Take inventory and assess. Identify what the actual change is and review how it will be impacting you and your life emotionally, mentally, socially, relationally, financially, spiritually, physically and in day-to-day logistics.  Be honest with yourself in this process.

Get to know your resources – but not too many.  Find no more than 3 go to resources, anymore will be at risk of overwhelming you with too much information and then create a “too many options, I can’t choose one” dilemma.  Find an agency that helps support this specific life change and ask them for referrals. They might even have a class or seminar for you to attend.

Make a plan, but don’t expect it to go perfectly.  In fact, expect at least something to go “wrong” or be an added surprise.  Have a backup plan or skills you can use if/when things need adjusting in the midst of your original blueprints.  Remind yourself of times when you were successful at compromising, accepting and adopting a new plan.

Gather your support system.  Chances are, you are not the only person who has gone through this life change.  Ask for others’ experiences, not their opinions! And because you aren’t the first one, there are most likely many different ways to go about this successfully and with a variety of resources and support. Address the life change and your plan for it with your support system or the others who are also going through with it, or have been there. Find a support network of people who have been through a similar transition.  This might mean finding a support group of people you have never before met.

Respect your support system.  Don’t forget that life continues happening for people around you.  Your life change might be all-consuming for you on some days, but your friends and family still have their own lives to live.  Don’t take it personally if they are not a constant support for you. Also, people support in many different ways. They might not show it in the most obvious ways.  Your life change might mean adjustment to relationships, and this can be difficult for some people to accept. They might take some time and not be immediately ready to support you.  Respect their boundaries so that you don’t have to also deal with the end of a relationship.

Get a therapist.  Having a third party to discuss all of your social, emotional and mental needs with is going to help keep you grounded throughout the process and you may learn a few extra tips along the way.  Ambivalence is the most common emotion during a life change, and to work through this it is so significant to acknowledge it and work through it objectively. I suggest going to a therapist any time you have a life change, even if that’s the only time you see them.  If you are in a committed relationship, a life changing event is the perfect time to reconnect and have a counselor help you as a couple along the way.

Beef up your coping mechanisms and maybe add some new ones.  Even if the change is exciting does not mean that it won’t be added stress.  Make note of what you can do to manage this stress effectively and use these tools on a daily basis to be proactive, not just when you feel the most stressed.  If you already use healthy coping skills regularly, it might be time to increase their frequency. If you are working with a therapist, they would be a great resource to add more coping tools to your toolbox.

Playlist to help you embrace change

  • Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson
  • Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield
  • How Far We’ve Come by Matchbox 20
  • Changes by David Bowie
  • Carry On by Fun.
  • Come Sail Away by Styx
  • Hey Jude by The Beatles
  • Fight Song by Rachel Platten
  • Time to Move On by Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
  • Life Changes by Thomas Rhett

 

Joy Walsh is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at The Lighthouse Emotional Wellness Center.  The Lighthouse, located in Schaumburg, IL, was the first emotional wellness center to be established in the Midwest over 15 years ago, serving as a guiding light towards healthy relationships. Our counseling services are provided for couples, families and individuals, to assist them in creating happy, healthy and empowered lives. For more information, check us out at www.LighthouseEmotionalWellness.com, or call us at 847-253-9769.