Coping With Big Life Changes

Human brains aren’t wired for change. Yet change is inevitable, and it can be a difficult process most of the time. From getting married to moving to a different city, change is what keeps life moving –  even though it may bring drawbacks along with it.

In this case, what should we do when change is necessary for growth?

Though we aren’t required to embrace change, we must allow our brains enough time to adjust to the events at play. Whether it’s a big or small change, we need some time to regroup and care for our mental health along the way.

Most importantly, we need to switch our perspective around change. Change may result in what we call cognitive dissonance, which happens when two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes clash. If you believe things should stay as they are and a wave of change comes along, you’ll feel uncomfortable. That explains why a lot of us dislike change. According to VeryWellMind, “People tend to seek consistency in their attitudes and perceptions, so this conflict causes feelings of unease or discomfort.”

The way you face change will play a role on how you feel about your circumstances – as well as life in general. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you cope with and navigate big life changes.

Don’t Fight the Process

You’re bound to feel uncertain at times. Allow yourself to feel confused and not know what the next step may bring. Allow things to be unexpected, and you’ll foster a better relationship with uncertainty.

Besides, avoid blaming yourself for wanting to stick to things as they are now. Think about it: life has jolted you out of a comfortable position, a daily routine, and challenged you to face something new. If anything, you’re allowed to be sad, mad, and angry.

Even if this period of change is a blessing in disguise, you don’t have to like it at first.

By the way: just because change may start out badly, that doesn’t mean it’ll be bad forever. The following phrase is a self-affirmation suggestion from Talkspace, which sums it up nicely: “Uncertainty simply means I don’t know the future. It does not mean the future is bad.”

Plan Ahead

Depending on how stressful your situation is, it may feel better to just “wait and see.” After all, the future’s not ours to see, right? That’s correct – but the future’s ours to plan.

What you choose to do today will impact tomorrow. Delaying things will only increase anxiety and uncertainty.

There are easy ways to keep track of change, and even diminish its impact. Here are a few examples to get you started:


  • If you know you can perform better with a to-do list or some form of step-by-step documentation, write down every step you’ll need to take to simplify the process.
  • Whenever possible, save money. This will help you avoid stressful financial problems down the road. The change may be hard as it is, so it’s important to avoid stacking money problems on top of it.
  • Consider emergencies. Sometimes, thinking about and planning for a worst-case scenario can help ease anxiety. If you’re prepared for the worst, the “best” becomes more manageable.
  • Engage in self-reflection. How can this situation change you into a better person? Can it bring new opportunities to your life? New beginnings?


You don’t have to think of making plans while the shock is still wearing off. It’s quite the contrary: you’ll need to be level-headed in order to make sound decisions. Allow the dust to settle before you can start extracting great outcomes out of the change.

Know That Even Positive Changes Can Be Difficult

When we think of change, we may think of losing a loved one. Going broke. Or any of the “big ones” we may face at some point in life.

However, change isn’t always bad. Even good changes, those you know will bring happiness to everyone involved, can be time-consuming and stressful. Again: we’re not wired for change. Regardless of what kind of change it is, our bodies will resist it.

“Even change that’s generally positive, such as celebrating your new marriage or having a baby, registers in the brain the same way as a more difficult event,” says Dr. Srini Pillay, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “The brain feels more comfortable with old patterns, and anything new presents a dilemma.”

Think of when you’re buying a new house. That’s an exciting prospect. However, you still have to deal with paperwork, contracts, mortgage payments, and everything that comes with a new property. The outcome may be exciting, whereas the process can be arduous. That happens to the best of us.

Don’t Forget About Self-Care

Not everybody is fond of the term “self-care,” and it’s not hard to understand why: some people think caring for themselves involves some sort of step-by-step checklist.

If, to you, self-care means putting on a face mask and taking a bath, think again. Self-care is, as the name suggests, an action of caring for oneself. And caring for oneself can mean so many different things.

Not only does the concept of self-care vary from person to person, but it also varies from day to day. All you need is to discover which activities work for you.

It’s easy to forget to take care of yourself, particularly during trying times. It’s hard to find the energy to stop and breathe for a minute when things go awry. Still, self-care can bring a number of benefits to your mental health, and even help the process along.

What does self-care mean to you? Here are just a few options that might resonate with you:

  • Talking to a loved one
  • Eating foods you enjoy
  • Taking a walk
  • Playing with a pet
  • Creating art
  • Writing
  • Watching your favorite movie or show
  • Taking social media breaks
  • Watching the sunset
  • Going out for coffee
  • Taking a break from work
  • Listening to music
  • Working out

Of course, you shouldn’t forget to build the healthy foundation your body needs to thrive. As needless as it may sound, your body needs proper hydration, nutrition, and sleep. If the change you’re going through is making you feel bad, you’ll feel a whole lot worse if you’re sleep-deprived, dehydrated, or hungry.

Seek Help

No one gets through life alone. Even if you’re reading self-help books to navigate a difficult process, you’re still counting on someone else’s knowledge to get by. If you’re reading this article, that means you’re not alone.

You aren’t supposed to deal with major changes on your own. Especially when such changes involve illness, injury, or loss. You didn’t ask for that, and you need all of the support you can get until you can get back on your feet. Trying to undergo such events by yourself can worsen any existing mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Whatever you do, don’t bottle up your feelings. If you’re struggling with your transition, you shouldn’t hesitate to talk to a mental health professional.

“In some cases, psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two may help deal with symptoms of stress caused by changes in your life,” says Kendra Cherry, MS.

If, for some reason, you’re unable to reach professional help, be sure to talk to an understanding friend or family member. They may offer unexpected tips and healthy coping mechanisms that will make your transition easier. Don’t underestimate the power of letting it all out.

Learning to Accept Change is Key to Adaptation

Once you accept that change is inevitable and focus your energy on finding better ways to cope, the process becomes smoother. It won’t necessarily become easier – but it will become more manageable.

No matter what you do, you can’t escape or control change. All you can control is what you’ll do about it. Besides, turbulent periods may lead to beautiful opportunities, even when they’re generated from pain and sorrow.

Don’t beat yourself up for rejecting uncertainty in the beginning, but don’t hesitate to welcome the unknown with an open heart. Surround yourself with loving people. Take care of your body and mind. You’ll surprise yourself with how much better things can become.

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