Life Changes: Accept, Adapt or Control

How can I keep from being overwhelmed by the changes in my life? Although there is no simple answer, developing problem-solving skills to reduce stress and trying to become more flexible with the details of a situation may be very helpful.

Life changes by definition implies that life in the future will be different from life in the past. How people react to change depends largely on whether the change is good or bad and whether they believe their past is in need of change. In all cases, a period of reflection and planning can make the transition more successful.

It is certainly easier for most people to accept good changes, such as winning the lottery, a new baby, a raise or promotion. (Although these situations could definitely benefit from a little reflection and planning.) Accepting bad changes such as a natural disaster, the loss of a loved one, a negative change in employment or a mid-life crisis is usually far more difficult. In these cases, reflection and planning are essential.

The first step in accepting life challenges is to acknowledge that a change has, indeed, occurred and that it will have an effect the future. Pretending that nothing has happened only prolongs dealing with the change and can increase the negative effects of that change. It might also be helpful to realize that changes in life are inevitable. Rarely do things or situations remain exactly the same indefinitely. Everyone struggles with personal challenges in his or her life. (Some just handle – or appear to handle - them better than others.)

Once change is acknowledged and accepted as fact, the process of assessing the impact and deciding how to deal with or adapt to the change can begin. Little by little, this process will result in a growing sense of control over effects of the change. And as control increases, moving forward becomes easier. Even the smallest degree of control can make a difference.

Serious life changes can provide opportunities for growth, or they can become permanent barriers to success. Self-confidence as an individual and hope for the future will increase future success. If we get stuck in reflection, are overly critical of ourselves with regard to the change, or refuse to look to the future, however, life changes can be overwhelming.


Overcoming Serious Life Changes

Accept change as part of life -

Everything in life is subject to change. In many cases we cannot prevent it, but we can anticipate and prepare for change to the best of our abilities. Developing strong personal strengths can help us adapt to life changes.

Allow time for reflection -

What will be different now? What were the good (and bad) aspects of life before the change? Overall, is this a good change? If not, could things have been done differently to prevent or minimize the effects of this change? (If this change involves a loss of any kind, this period may also be considered a time of grieving.)

Allow time for self-evaluation -

How does this change affect me (physically, mentally, emotionally, financially)? Are there lessons I can learn as a result of this change? Did I contribute to the change? If so, in what way? (Be fair in this evaluation. Accept responsibility, but realize that few people are the sole reason for any change.)

Allow time for future planning -

Is this change permanent? Can I fight it? If so, how? What do I have to do to accept or adapt to this change? What changes, if any, will I have to make in my life? What strengths, skills or interests do I need or want to develop? What goals do I see myself accomplishing? (Reading about people who have successfully dealt with change, seeking out a support group (formal or informal) and/or volunteering may also be helpful in moving beyond the change or giving it a new perspective.)

Always remember -

Life after this change may not be the same, but it can still be rewarding and self-fulfilling.


Life Skills Can Help Manage Serious Life Changes

A healthy self-esteem - believing in our strength as an individual - greatly increases our ability to cope with changes in life.

Establishing a number of healthy relationships – those built on mutual trust and respect – can provide support in times of change.

stress management skills allows some control over every situation. With less stress we are better able to focus on the things that are most important.

Acknowledging and using our AREA of Control can also help keep our actions, reactions, emotions and attitude in check.

Developing spirituality - a belief in God, a Higher Power or a Grand Plan - can help us seek strength outside of ourselves.