February 8, 2024

Going through life changes and how we can help

What is a life change?

A life change or event is considered to be an occurrence that is likely to bring about temporary or permanent readjustment and would require a change in usual activities or routine (Holmes & Rahe 1967). At some point in life we all experience changes which can be difficult or stressful to cope with. In most cases, we cope with these changes and adapt accordingly. However, sometimes the stress and anxiety of these events can get too much. It is important to remember that feelings of being overwhelmed by events can be in response to positive life changes such as getting married.

In general, negative life changes tend to have a negative impact on your overall wellbeing and positive changes tend to have a positive impact. However, an overall increase in the number of changes experienced in general, can increase your risk for more negative outcomes even if some of these events are considered to be positive (Cleland, Kearns, Tannahill & Ellaway 2016).

Life changes which are difficult to cope with or adjust to can cause higher levels of stress. They can also lead to the development of unhelpful coping behaviours such as poor diet choices, lack of sleep, isolation and an increase in consumption of drugs or alcohol. Life changes can also have a negative impact on our immune systems. To read more about stress and how to cope with it see here or here.

Actions that can help

  1. Try to maintain a healthy routine. Making good choices when it comes to diet and exercise can make a world of difference to how you experience the world and your wellbeing. Sticking to some sort of structure during the week can provide some much needed predictability which can be helpful when a life change is occuring.
  2. Try techniques such as meditation or mindfulness to help combat life event induced stress. (See here)
  3. Acknowledge this life change. By trying to name and accept that things are changing, you may find the event easier to deal with and find ways of gaining some control over what is happening.
  4. Try to see any silver linings. Sometimes it can be difficult to identify positives following a difficult change in life, but trying to consider the positive outcomes as well as the negatives may help to improve how you feel about the change. Often we learn a great deal during times of stress and develop resilience.
  5. Seek support if you need to. Everyone is different and it is ok to feel anxious or stressed about a promotion or the birth of your baby. If you feel like you are struggling to adjust to change, reach out to someone to talk to. This could be a friend, family member or a healthcare professional. Additional support during this time will help you to better manage the change.

How to get help

If you find that you are struggling to adjust to a recent life change or event it is important to speak to someone. You could start by opening up to a friend or family member. Having this additional support may be all you need to get back on track. If you think you need more support, you can speak to your GP or another healthcare professional. In some instances, talking to a therapist or counsellor can be beneficial to help you to cope with changes in life.

For more information visit: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1968-03998-001 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27760568

Life Changes - Five facts

  1. A life change doesn’t have to be negative or permanent for it to have an impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Events which you are excited about, look forward to, or have wanted for some time, such as home improvements or getting married, can also be overwhelming and cause stress and anxiety.
  2. Not everyone experiences and copes with life changes in the same way. For example, one person may find a divorce very distressing whereas for another this may bring a sense of relief.
  3. There is no ‘one way’ to manage with the effects of a life change.
  4. Life changes or events that cause stress can impact your mood and psychological wellbeing as well as your physical health and immune system.
  5. Not all life changes are negative. Often an isolated positive life change can boost wellbeing and leave you feeling empowered.

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