Major life changes come in many forms. Some life changes are negative such as
- job loss
- death in the family
There are also many positive life changes such as
- a new job
- the birth of a baby
- moving to a new city
One thing all of these major life changes have in common is that they all can produce negative mental states including anxiety and depression.
Yes, even things you look forward to can cause emotional discomfort. Why? There are a number of possible reasons. For many people, a consistent routine is what feels best, and when it is altered, they experience stress. For others, a major change causes a sense of fear of the unknown. In any case, there are things you can do to minimize or eliminate the negative impact of a major life change.
5 Strategies for Navigating Major Life Change
When you experience a significant turning point in your life — or better yet, when you see it on the horizon and have time to prepare — try these strategies for experiencing less fear and sadness and, when possible, more excitement and joy.
- Acknowledge your discomfort. Often we try to hide our feelings about a major life change, not only from our family and friends but also from ourselves. Acknowledging to yourself that, “I’m worried. This situation scares me,” is a great first step toward dealing with your anxiety in a positive way. From there, making the same kind of admission to your loved ones can help even more.
- Focus on physical relaxation. The positive or negative state of our mind and our body go hand-in-hand. Taking time to release your physical tension can have a very positive effect on your emotions. Exercise, proper nutrition, a massage… there are many ways to sooth your body and soul.
- Take charge of the change. Being in the uncomfortable position of wondering “What’s going to happen next?” is a major cause of depression and anxiety. One of the best ways to counteract it is to take action. For example, if you’re nervous about starting a new job, drive by the location before your first day so you have your commuting strategy in place, plan what you’ll wear the first week, grocery shop for lunch and snack food, ask the HR representative questions about company culture or your new boss about your job responsibilities. In short, be proactive.
- Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.” For positive life events, this isn’t hard to do. The new baby, the adventure of relocating and getting to know another town or the new relationship all have many exciting aspects. Remind yourself of them regularly, and be thankful that you get to experience them. With negative life events, this strategy is more challenging. However, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and an opportunity to begin a “new chapter.” Practice mindfulness to keep your mind in the here and now. Observe thoughts and feelings from a distance without classifying them as good or bad. Keeping those things in mind can help prevent negative thoughts from dominating your thinking.
- Take advantage of resources like the Community Reach Center. Trained counselors have the skills, experience and compassion to guide you through a life transition in a way that acknowledges your fears or sadness but gently accentuates the positive aspects the change will bring.
The ability to prepare for and manage major life changes is a valuable skill. We can help you learn it. Contact the Community Reach Center online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at (303) 853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm.