Overcoming Unexpected Life Transitions

By Sarah Strumeier

Many of us experience unexpected life transitions. Unexpected life transitions can come up at the drop of a hat. Unexpected life transitions can include but are not limited to loss of employment, losing a loved one, a relationship ending, divorce, separation, health issues, family issues, becoming pregnant, or financial struggles. Whether these unexpected life transitions are positive or negative, one can often experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, or distress as a result. When navigating an unexpected life transition, it is important to remind yourself that change is a normal part of life and that you may be experiencing these symptoms due to being outside of your comfort zone. Below are ways to cope and overcome an unexpected life transition:

Practicing Self-Care

Sometimes when an unexpected life transition occurs, our routines are often disrupted, which can lead us to not engaging in the self-care we would normally practice. Despite the disruption of your routine, it is important to find a way to continue some form of self-care. Self-care can range anywhere from exercising, meditating, drinking water, taking a nap, speaking with your therapist, etc. One way to incorporate self-care back into your routine is planning for the week ahead and asking yourself what are a few forms of self-care that you can hold yourself accountable to practice, such as going on a walk each morning.

Acknowledging Feelings

An important thing that people tend to gloss over on when they are experiencing an unexpected life transition is acknowledging their own feelings. The worst thing you can do when this happens is to repress your feelings surrounding the unexpected life transition. The consequences of repressing your feelings is that oftentimes repressed emotions can come back up for us at some point in our lives. A way of acknowledging your feelings is to find acceptance in the fact that you may never understand or know why this unexpected life transition happened. You also may need to remind yourself that what happened is not your fault and you are not to blame for what happened.

Finding Control

Most times when an unexpected life transition occurs, we often experience loss of control. Loss of control can often contribute to why we are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and distress. When feelings of loss of control occur, it is important to find ways to gain control in order to reduce symptoms and improve functioning. For example, if you were unexpectedly laid off from your job, you can begin to look and apply for other jobs. If that job you were laid off from impacted your self-care prior to losing the job, start practicing self-care such as making home cooked meals, taking a warm bath, etc.

Finding Gratitude

Sometimes the last thing someone may feel when experiencing an unexpected life transition is gratitude. This may not apply to every single unexpected life transition, but it can apply for some. For example, a relationship ending may lead you to a new one where you can be a more authentic version of yourself. Another example can be loss of employment at a job may lead you to your dream job. Life can work in mysterious ways and these unexpected life transitions may lead you to somewhere far greater than before.

Finding Connection & Social Support

Sometimes when an unexpected life transition occurs, we may isolate ourselves from our loved ones and friends without even realizing it. Even if it is the last thing we want to talk about, it is important to remain connected with our friends and family during a time like this. If you are one who may not know how to convey how you are feeling as a result of the life transition, just ask or tell a family member or friend what you need from them. This can include just going to grab a coffee and talking about other things that will make you feel connected to them. On the other hand, some may find it comforting to talk to someone who has experienced a similar unexpected life transition, such as losing a loved one, experiencing separation or divorce, etc. If you are one who finds comfort in speaking to someone who has gone through a similar transition, there are many forms of social support, such as attending a support group online or in person.

Speaking To A Psychotherapist

As mentioned above, one can experience mental health symptoms as a result of unexpected life transitions, such as grief, depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc. Some people do not realize that an unexpected life transition can not only impact your physical health, but your mental and emotional health as well. It is important that when you start to feel that it is impacting your mental health to speak to a trained psychotherapist who has experience and knowledge in helping someone overcome and cope with life transitions. For example, if you are experiencing chronic low self-esteem and anxiety as a result of an unexpected life transition, this may be a sign that you should seek therapy.

Speaking to a psychotherapist can help provide you a non-biased and non-judgmental perspective in what you are going through. Psychotherapists such as myself are trained in modalities such as solution focused therapy that can help you in brainstorming next steps and solutions of what you are trying to overcome or achieve in order to be the best version of yourself. You do not have to face your unexpected life transition alone. I would be happy to help you find growth in what you are going through, as well as feel hopeful and neutral about the future despite how you may be feeling right now.