Life can be demanding with the many responsibilities and expectations we have for ourselves or that others have for us. Many of us have an idea of what we want our lives to look like—whether that includes attending college and landing the entry level job, beginning a new relationship, starting a family or traveling the world. But what happens when unforeseen challenges come knocking on our doors?
Unexpected challenges in life may come in the form of loss of employment, a relationship break-up, family issues, health concerns or financial struggles. They can often lead to feelings of disappointment, frustration, doubt, anger, or uncertainty. Symptoms of anxiety or depression may present in our lives as irritability, poor concentration, lack of energy, sleep disturbances, loss of interest in things we once enjoyed or negative thoughts and feelings about self. At times, there may seem as if there is no light at the end of this complicated tunnel.
In working with clients, I hear that unhealthy life choices are made more often during difficult times. During these times, it can be more challenging to find the time and energy to take care of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. Here are a few tips for managing life in a healthy way during unexpected life transitions:
Acknowledge your feelings: It can be so easy to brush off negative feelings about situations and cover them up with how we think we should feel. Although remaining positive through difficulties is helpful, not being honest with yourself can be harmful. Naming your feelings can be vulnerable but it allows you (even if it’s only for a moment) to experience what you truly feel.
Identify gratitude: Finding joy in the journey of transition can sometimes seem impossible, but it can be helpful to identify something positive amongst the negative. This can be as simple as expressing gratitude for nature, opportunities for personal growth, aspects about ourselves that we like or supportive people in our lives. Also, taking five minutes a day to reflect on gratitude in a journal can allow for a quiet moment in the day and provide something to reflect on in those tougher times.
Maintain motivation: When life feels heavy, it can become a chore to engage in activities and routines that we know are stabilizing and healthy. We sometimes rob ourselves of coping skills that have helped us in the past by not using them consistently when we do not feel 100%. Exercising, reading, meditating, spending one-on-one time with a friend or playing games are a few common coping skills that help maintain motivation. If time is short, then make small adjustments to these activities than abandoning them altogether.
Stay connected: Finding a safe space to process your thoughts and feelings about transitions can be very helpful. It is very easy to feel as if we are the only ones going through transition, but it is a very common part of life. Friend groups, faith communities, family members or therapy can provide mental and emotional support we may need during and after life struggles.
Life is unpredictable. Although we can plan for the future in the best ways possible, it is beneficial to have skills for when life does not go as planned. Identifying coping skills and putting them into daily practice can set you up for successful transitions when the unexpected occurs. Being aware of your feelings and emotions, identifying positives in life, practicing self-care and establishing a support system are ways to foster healthy emotional and mental health. Taking these challenges day by day and moment by moment can assist us in finding hope and healing during stressful life transitions.
Joelle Shipp, MA, LPC became a mindcare provider in order to support people through life’s challenges, recognizing that it is helpful to have support during these times. As a provider Ms. Shipp prioritizes creating a safe, validating and encouraging space for clients, offering individual, family and couple’s counseling at our Charlotte office for a wide variety of mindcare needs, including ADHD, adjustment disorder, domestic violence, marital counseling, postpartum depression, OCD, gambling, PTSD, trauma and life transitions. More information at mindpathcare.com/staff/joelle-shipp-ma-lpc/.
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