How to Deal With Unexpected Changes in Life
In life, unexpected changes are guaranteed to happen at some point.
You might be let go from your job. You might leave a long-term relationship. Or you might receive bad news from the doctor. Whatever the circumstances are, adjusting to change can be difficult. Every change forces us out of our comfort zones temporarily, and in the face of unexpected change, we are often thrown off-guard.
Here’s what you can do when you encounter unexpected changes in life.
01 | Recognize That It Is Temporary
Expect to feel anxious, depressed or angry, but recognize that these intense feelings are only temporary.
Any change, whether they are welcome or not, creates discomfort. When the change is both unwelcome and unexpected, the discomfort is even greater. Unexpected changes in life throws us out of our comfort zones. Facing unexpected change, it is normal that we experience intense negative emotions.
In the state of sadness, disappointment and rage, it seems as if we will never be ‘okay’ again. In fact, we question if we will ever feel better.
The truth is, we are all incredibly resilient. Research has shown that people often overestimate the impact, intensity and duration that both positive and negative events have on our lives. In a particular study, paraplegics were found to be equally happy as they were before one year after the accident. Similarly, lotto winners were found to be equally happy as they were before one year after winning the lottery.
02 | Seek Out Support
When bad things happen, know that you are not alone – ever.
There is no one person in the world who has cruised through his or her life without any help. Reaching out can help you to gain new perspectives, or even solutions to your problems.
Research has shown that difficult times are when social support is the most important. Positive social support enhances resilience to stress. It helps you to cope with unexpected changes in healthy, adaptive ways.
Think about individuals in your family or social circle whom you can turn to. Is there anybody who has gone through what you are going through?
03 | Get into Action
We cannot directly change how we feel, but we can change how we act.
According to William Glasser, all behavior is made up of four components – Acting, Thinking, Feeling and Physiology. We have the most control over our actions, and the least control over our feelings and physiology.
Using the analogy of a car, actions and thoughts are like the front wheels. It steers the direction in which the car moves in. Feelings and physiology are like the back wheels, following along in whichever direction the car moves.
If you want to feel better, the most effective way is to get into action.
Follow through on the routines that you already have. If you usually hit the gym three times a week, don’t stop. If you usually have a girl’s night out every Friday, don’t cancel on your girlfriends.
04 | Make Meaning
Change brings about new problems, but we often forget that it also brings about new opportunities.
Being able to find meaning in our challenges allows us to own them. We challenge our ability to go where we have not gone before, and to do what we have not done before. In turn, this fosters courage, resilience, confidence and self-worth.
Ask yourself: What can I learn from this? What do I know about myself that I have not known before? How can I turn this into something that will have a positive impact on my life one year, two years, or five years from now?
Above all else, remember that you are not alone. If you are struggling with unexpected changes in your life and need additional support, our team of professional counsellors and psychotherapists is here to support you. Please feel free to contact us or to book an appointment with our counsellors.
Note: If you feel that life is not worth living and have made plans to end your life, seek help immediately:
- Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) Hotline: 1800-221-4444
- Singapore Police Force: 999
- Singapore Civil Defence Force: 995