Disclaimer for our post on how to deal with big life changes: We are not mental health experts, therapists, etc. More info here.
Photo from when I graduated. There was a target cart randomly near where we got dinner. Family had me take a pic with it for some reason. Seems like a pretty good representation of a big life change where I didn’t know what was going on.
Life has many ups and downs, as we all know. With all the Covid stuff still going on, things that used to be consistent are still endlessly fluctuating.
- Can I go to the gym or is it closed?
- Will I have a job next month?
- Is my school online or in person next semester?
Those are just a few questions that I think everyone has asked within the last year. These types of changes are just added on to the regular changes that you face in your life like moving, changing jobs, having kids, etc. So, what are some ways you can deal with these big life changes? Evan and I have been through a few and we have learned some coping skills for dealing with various changes life throws at us.
I think the most major life changes we’ve dealt with so far are:
- Death of a parent at a young age
- Living on our own (separately, and then together)
- Moving across states
- Switching from military to student
- Going from student to worker (I’m struggling to think of a better word for worker. I know there is one out there, but the internet thesauruses are not helping me with this)
So, our advice is kind of general, but coming from the perspective based on those life transitions.
Plan What You Can
Wow, planning. Never would’ve thought of that on your own would you? (sarcasm) Ok, yes I know planning is kind of a given for when you’re expecting a big life change to occur.
However, just because you think about planning doesn’t mean you will always follow through on planning. Sometimes, if you’re really stressed out, then winging it seems like an easier option. Trust me, it’s not. I don’t think we’ve ever had an instance where we’ve been like “you know, I wish we hadn’t spent all that time planning for this situation”. It takes more time to plan up front, but saves you time and work on the back end.
So, for example our move from California to New Mexico took a lot of planning in all aspects. In order for the Marine Corps to pay for our move, we had to do some extra work like weighing the truck with and without all our stuff when we left and arrived. We also moved on July 3rd and the leasing office was going to be closed on July 4th, so we couldn’t run late at all. We planned, but even so were not expecting how long it would take to load everything and drive. If we hadn’t planned as much as possible, we probably would’ve had to keep the U-haul an extra day and stay an extra day in a hotel. Not a huge deal, but would’ve been pretty inconvenient.
Go with the Flow
Seems pretty contradictory to the above section, right? I really need to go with the flow more in everyday life, not just when dealing with big life changes. So, although we always recommend planning, there’s always stuff that comes up that you just can’t account for unless you’re AI or something. In those situations, you just have to think on your feet and accept that you can deal with this, even if it’s unexpected.
You can have backup plans for some scenarios you think are likely besides your main plan, but you can’t anticipate everything.
One example for this is when Evan came back from deployment. He was supposed to be back a few days before he actually arrived. Stuff happened and he got delayed. All his stuff was in storage while he was away. So, basically our whole plan was he’d come back on X day, go get some stuff out of storage, and then I’d pick him up. He came back on Y day after the storage place was already closed. Luckily, he had left some clothes at my apartment, so I brought him those. The military base wouldn’t let me in till Evan called the gate people and pulled rank.
We eventually got to each other and now we’re here, happily ever after and all that jazz. Not a super dramatic story, but obviously none of his home-coming went to plan. I don’t know how people did the whole military relationship thing before texting. If this was 1940 I would’ve been at the train station for like 3 days waiting for him. Technology is great.
Keep Some Routines
When life gets crazy, that is probably when you are least likely to keep to your overall routine. But, to give you some time when you don’t have to think too hard and everything feels natural, keep at least one of your regular routines. Whether it’s going to the gym in the evenings, eating your regular lunch everyday, or binge watching a show on Saturdays, keeping some sort of routine can help you retain some feelings of being grounded. Not like teenager in trouble grounded, but stable grounded. Feeling like there’s something that stays the same while you’re dealing with a big life change is a good thing.
Lifting is one routine we take with us wherever. When we moved, we searched for a gym while we were apartment hunting, so we knew where to go as soon as we moved here. Even when we travel, we find somewhere we can work out. It adds consistency to our lives.
Please don’t take this as an excuse to deal with your big life changes by going on a huge shopping spree and gorging yourself on every food you love. Those things will probably stress you out more later. Like most things, treat yourself in moderation. One example could be if you’re stressing about job hunting, get a latte to sip on while you’re scrolling through job boards. I’m sure you know what little things you love to do or buy for yourself that lift your spirits a little.
You’re not alone. Reach out to someone. Sometimes you just can’t handle everything that’s going on all at once without assistance. Whether that is physical assistance like moving boxes, mental like therapy, financial like loans or financial aid, or regarding any other stressor related to your life change, it’s not going to just magically appear. You have to let someone know you need help.
Evan and I support each other when we try to deal with all the big life changes. But, we do know to reach out to people if we need help from others.
If you are in need of help from someone other than family and friends, here’s a link to the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ page of hotlines.
We all deal with big life changes or even little changes in our own ways, but if you’re needing some extra guidance, then planning, going with the flow, retaining some of your routines, treating yourself, and reaching out for help are a few things that may help you.