Four simple steps for coping with significant life changes

Recently, I found out that someone I know lost his job. He described being shocked when he learned he was being let go, and that he had to accept that he needed to shift gears and move into job-search mode. He also said something else I found very interesting:

I found that I have so much that I should and want to do, that it has proved to be almost more difficult to accomplish things than when I was spending eight-plus hours in the office every day. Each day so far, without a schedule as tight as I had been maintaining while employed, seems to be flying by! More time is actually less time.

It’s the paradox of that last statement that gave me pause. Theoretically, it would seem that not having to commute and spend several hours at an office would equate to having more time to work on anything you want — in his case, job search activities. I think a couple of things are happening here. First, he’s dealing with a change — and not just any change, a major one that came as somewhat of a surprise. Second, his routine is not his routine anymore. Even though he has systems that work for him, they may not necessarily fit his current situation. And, now that he has less structure built in to his day, it can be easy for time to just slip away and for him to become frustrated.

Change, unwelcome or unexpected, doesn’t have to have a negative spin. Auriela McCarthy, author of The Power of the Possible said:

People think of change as something dangerous. But it helps to remember all the ways your life has been altered in the past and realize that not only did you not keel over and die, things often turned out for the better.

When a significant change occurs in your life, you might find yourself consumed by stress or even fear, but there are several things you can to do to stay positive and keep moving forward:

  1. Take a look at what has worked in the past. If you find that you’re feeling frustrated about your new circumstances, you can take hold of your emotions by thinking about the strategies that have previously been successful. Can those techniques be incorporated in your new routine? What adjustments would you have to make?
  2. Consider new strategies. While you can rely on tried and true action steps, this might be a good time to explore other options that might help you more easily manage your current circumstances. You can talk with friends and family members to find out what strategies worked for them to help you decide the ones you’ll try. Be sure not to get stuck at this stage as it can delay how quickly you can focus on your next steps.
  3. Create a new plan. Once you’ve reviewed all your options, you’ll need to craft a plan. Select specific tactics you’ll employ consistently so you can successfully transition to your new routine.
  4. Put your new plan to the test. Of course, there’s no point in having a plan if you don’t implement it. Keep in mind not every day will go as you intend and you may need to make some adjustments. If you encounter hiccups along the way, you can again talk with someone you trust (perhaps a long-time advisor or mentor) to give you objective opinions or make necessary changes.

Whether it’s changing jobs or doing a whole house uncluttering project, being organized with your process is a great way to stay on track and move forward when undergoing a significant life change.

5 Comments for “Four simple steps for coping with significant life changes”

  1. posted by Robyn on

    “Change, unwelcome or unexpected, doesn’t have to have a negative spin.” – This is a powerful observation.

    I loved this quote from Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, about the paths we can take during a crisis: “The problem is that when we are stressed or in crisis, many people miss the most important path of all: the path up.”

    I also love the title of the chapter: Falling Up.

  2. posted by AnotherDeb on

    As a teacher, I experience this feeling each summer. I save up projects, sometimes for a couple of years, until I have a summer of unscheduled time. Then I end up puttering around, staying up late, relaxing over a book or getting sidetracked by a small decluttering job like the silverware drawer. Then the week is gone, then the month. I consider it a “brain vacation” and ultimately feel refreshed but frustrated that I didn’t complete my resolutions. In times I was trying to find work, the stress over “wasting” time caused me to feel paralyzed.
    I think it helps to get up, and get dressed at the same time each day. Get out of the house for something, even if it is a grocery run. Sitting around the house, you get absorbed by the solitude. Returning after a small excursion is a bit of an energy boost.

  3. posted by Christy King on

    “More time is actually less time.” I noticed this problem in a lot of friends who were laid off or took time off to be stay-at-home parents. Suddenly I, who was working full-time, had more time to supervise play dates and bake bread than they did. How could that be?

    So when I started working part-time to write, I made sure I treated writing as a job. I get up at the same time and otherwise treat it as a real job. Otherwise, I know I’d get nothing done.

  4. posted by Ant on

    Wow what a blog :)

    I think coping with massive change is what separates people in to two groups. People who succeed and plow through it and people who give up.

    Ill try to keep up with this blog.

  5. posted by Asad Raza on

    I believe that the only way to deal with life challenges is to analyze every tough situation well. If you take action without analyzing then You are always going take wrong steps!

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