How to Cope With Unexpected Life Changes

In my last post, I talked about expectations and how they can contribute to unhappiness. How perfect is it that the very next day, I was let go from my current position in one of the jobs that I now hold. To be fair, they didn’t technically fire me. They just demoted me into a position that pays about 10% of what I was earning before.

What a perfect opportunity to put my money where my mouth is and practice some of my preachings…right?

So, while in the last post I talked about why we should avoid setting expectations…in this post I want to talk about some pragmatic tips that you can use in order to survive an unexpected shift in your life that makes brings up uncertainty, discomfort….maybe even pain. It might be the end of a job, the dissolving of a marriage…anything that you perceived as being a solid part of your life…and is now not so solid.

First – Really look at the change happening to you. Are you taking it personally?

As I said in my last post, we don’t really have control over unexpected events. We don’t even, necessarily, have control over whether or not it causes us pain. BUT – we do have control over whether or not we suffer from it. In my mind pain and suffering are two different things. Pain just is. Suffering is what we create in response to that pain.

In my case, for example, it wasn’t as though I was getting fired because I am a bad person. I didn’t actually do anything wrong to warrant the demotion. BUT – it also wasn’t because they were bad people just out to get me. It wasn’t personal. It was business. They were paying me too much given the work they had to give me. It was just that simple. So, they offered me the choice to take a position doing less work for less pay.

It is still lousy. I still need to find other work. But I don’t have to dwell on it. I can let it go and begin the process of moving forward. I can either choose to see this as evidence that the world is a cold calculating place out to get me…..OR I can choose to see this is a random event that will give me an opportunity to grow and try something new.

Second – Take care of your physical body. 

As this whole thing has transpired, I have made it a point to stay on top of my usual health practices. Without them, I could EASILY slide into a spiral of discomfort illness.

  • Eat real food. Keeping the body nourished helps beef up an immune system that is likely under strain with the stress of change. Change is inherently stressful. Some of it is good stress. But not all of it. Case in point – people who eat more vegetables are shown to be happier in their day-to-day lives. 
  • Move your body. Exercise helps not only improve your physical stamina, but it also helps improve your prefrontal cortex in the brain. In other words – it puts you in a position to better be able to problem solve.
  • Get enough sleep. People who get enough rest have less cortisol pumping in their veins. That helps keep the body from being in fight or flight mode…which helps you make more rational decisions. Arriana Huffington learned the value of sleep the hard way…it is a tremendously important tool.

Third – Take care of your mental health

  • Meditate. Research shows, time and again, that meditation helps us develop resilience during stressful times in life. It also helps work out the brain in such a way as to help it process information more effectively and problem solve more efficiently.
  • Practice gratitude and positive psychology. Exercises like writing three things down every day that you are grateful for, spending two minutes writing about a good thing that happened today, performing random acts of kindness….they are evidence based techniques for improving happiness and resilience in tough times.
  • Play more. We are naturally inquisitive creatures. Grownups are no different than children in their need for play and creativity.

Fourth – Remember that, in the end, we have a happiness immune system that always brings us back to baseline no matter the difficulty we are facing. 

 

Conclusion:

Life happens. Most of what happens is outside of our realm of control. In fact…I think it’s fair to say that we can’t really control much of anything other than our words, thoughts, and actions. The outcome is not something we ever get to dictate.

We can influence an outcome. By staying committed to self care, working hard, and serving others to the best of our ability, we put ourselves in a position to attract better opportunities. In other words, we can control how to respond to the events in our lives.

Remember – every challenge in life can be seen as either a source of suffering, or an opportunity. It’s all in how you frame it.

 

How do you cope with unexpected life changes?

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