How to Successfully Adapt to a Major Life Change
Major life changes include breakups, family deaths, job loss, and even the loss of a pet who was always home waiting for you. These tips for adapting to a major life change apply to most situations.
If you’re facing a major life change, I highly recommend Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. I was “forced” to read it when I worked at Big Sisters Big Brothers in Calgary, when a great deal was changing in the organization. I say “forced” because 1) I love reading, so it was no hardship; and 2) I love doing things differently at work and home, so I jumped on the changes with both feet.
I’m thinking about calling myself the Adept Adaptor because change is my favorite thing in life. Isn’t it ironic that I’m married to a man who loves routine and dislikes change? He adapts fairly well, I’m happy to say, but he sometimes needs a gentle, loving push in the right direction. That said, however, learning living alone after the death of a spouse would be the most difficult life change I could ever adapt to.
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5 Tips for Adapting to a Major Life Change
These aren’t steps, so they don’t need to be followed in order. They’re just suggestions. Pick the one that resonates with you, and try it! If it makes you angry or roll your eyes in disgust, then you know you’re on to something.
Figure out why you’re resisting the change
My friend’s wife wants a divorce, but my friend is refusing to accept it. He isn’t actively forcing her to stay married, but he can’t let her go. He won’t do anything that remotely resembles moving on with his life, even though she first initiated the breakup two years ago.
I know that letting go of someone you love is one of the biggest, most majorly painful life changes. I’ve done it, and it was awful. It’s still awful – it’s an ongoing thing. But if you want to be happy, you have to let go of what you wanted your life to look like.
Why are you refusing to adapt to this major change in your life? For instance, maybe you’re holding on to someone who doesn’t want to be with you because you’re scared to be alone, or you have low self-esteem, or you worry about what people will think. If you can identify why you’re resisting this change, you might be able to adapt better.
Connect with people who’ve adapted to a similar life change
If you were fired from your job, join a job search club or talk to an employment counselor. If your partner died, find a bereavement support group in your area.
One of the best ways to cope with any type of life change is to “normalize” it by hanging out with people who know what you’re going through, and who will tell you how they adapted. You’ll see you’re not alone, which will help you feel better.
Get out of town
If something happened to my husband, I’d sell our house (which I love dearly) and move somewhere far away.
I’d never be able to adapt to being a widow if I stayed here because I’d be surrounded by memories and plans and hopes and dreams.
You may not want to move – it’s a huge life change in itself! But, how about a month-long ocean cruise or a two week trip to Africa? Sometimes getting some distance from your life can help you adapt to a major change because it gives you a whole new perspective on life.
Find other ways to fill the gap
We can’t have kids, and I’ve adjusted by throwing my energy into my blogs, my grad studies (I’m working on my MSW at UBC), my flute practice, my Little Sister, and our yearly holidays. I wrote Accepting a Childfree Life – How to be Happy Without Having Children to share how I’m coping with the idea that we’ll never have kids.
And just today I realized that I want my life to be about something. I want to be remembered for something I stood for, which is why I’m blogging to help people adapt to change. I still need a “moniker” – a short, snappy way to say “I’m the woman who helps people adapt to change.” But even without an official title, I’m forging ahead with this change in my life.
Remember how you adapted to major life changes in the past
In counseling class, we’re taught to empower clients by helping them build on their strengths. One way to do this is to help them remember how they’ve coped with difficulties in the past. The idea is that if we remember how we dealt with challenges we’ve already faced, we’ll be better able to deal with the challenges we’re now facing.
This probably isn’t the first major life change you’ve experienced. How did you cope in the past? Can those old coping strategies help you today? I welcome your thoughts below, but I can’t offer advice or counseling.
“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.” – Emily Dickinson.
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