You can expect that life will throw you curveballs. Some you might expect or happily welcome, sometimes you might plan to bring changes upon yourself and sometimes we are hit with situations we had no preparation to deal with. (Like in divorce: there are those that have been ready for a while and initiate the process, and those that are just coming to terms with the reality that things are over). In all cases, the more we can take time out to identify our objectives, and goals to meet these life circumstances, the greater potential for a successful outcome that meets our ultimate goals and needs. The idea is planning and preparation, which we can’t always put into place in the moments things come up. But the ideal response to these and all events is to follow these steps:
- Take a step back: assess the situation, identify what you need to feel ok and what you want (your objectives) to feel successful.
- Make sure that you are clear or get clear on what is most important to you so that you make sure that the steps you take do not compromise your values, who you are and who you want to be. (When it comes to the loss of a relationship like in divorce this may take quite some time because getting “clear” may mean getting through many of the emotional stages of loss and grief, or giving yourself space just to get through an emotional storm, and become more emotionally regulated for a moment or some time).
- Once you are clear, evaluate the pros and cons of taking action in ways you “want” vs. ways you “need” to move forward… Typically in the storm of an unexpected circumstance that is involving change creates a level of emotion and urge to act impulsively… Do a pros and cons on reacting impulsively v responding effectively and what that looks like. Evaluate the long term and short term impacts of each point.
- Proceed mindfully once you are clear on the action path that makes the most sense and that satisfies your ultimate goals. Act as skillfully as you can and do your best. Your best might not always be good enough, in the sense that it might not achieve exactly what you were looking for, but it sometimes takes action steps to learn what works and what doesn’t.
- So see your mistakes as opportunities for learning on how to improve the steps to direct them in a way that is in greater alignment with who you want to be and how you want to feel.
How do you know when you need help?
Reaching out for help takes a level of self-awareness and honesty with yourself. When after consistent efforts and energy spent you are finding yourself feeling hopeless, fatigued, discouraged, lost or even stuck, it is time to reach out for help. When looking back on your past efforts, evaluate how effective you have been at achieving your goals? Be realistic about your evaluations and review of the past. What level of success were you hoping to achieve? How satisfied and acceptable were you with the outcomes of your actions? And does the outcomes of your efforts match the level of success you were hoping to achieve? If these answers don’t match up to then it is time to consider reaching out for support.
Experiment with helpers. I often use the expression, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it.” Sometimes taking steps into exploring avenues of support can prove fruitful in helping you hone in on the direction you need to take to get better at addressing the adversity and challenges you are facing.
Think about the cost/benefit of investing in this experimentation… How much time and money are you spending to explore the possibility of finding good support and consider all the potential of what you might achieve with the right kind of support…It’s somewhat of a guessing game and that is why it might be worth the experimentation… But these are things you have control over–>yourself and your potential to achieve.. You are worth the risk. You are worth the investment. How much do you have to lose in reaching out for help? Talk to others and gain a broader more objective perspective of the value in pursuing support.
Who Stands To Gain and Who Stands to Lose?!
The answer, YOU. Your life and future is in your hands no matter what life throws your way. Even if it knocks you down hard. It is up to you to pull yourself back up. And you are the most important asset you have. You are the one that matters more than anything. Without you, and the steps you take, you cannot accomplish anything. Recognize your value and how important it is to invest in your wellbeing and self care. Without a good foundation of health and mental health, you likely will be running on low and be more vulnerable to fail or fall apart. Start with taking care of your biological needs: having good quality sleep, nutrition, exercise, healthcare, and balancing work with your social and emotional needs for connection and fulfilment is paramount.
Feeding your body and your soul are really important and become a high priority when facing a major life transition… It is up to you to make it through.
One of the biggest challenges that life-changing-events can bring is the loss of one, or several, identities (being married vs. single, employed vs unemployed or retired, independent or dependent, changing a profession in one area vs. another). The challenge then becomes how to reinvent yourself in order to create a new sense of self and a renewed identity. There are many ways to do this: meeting new people, trying new activities, changing your routines and daily activities reading books, joining clubs, volunteering, and learning from other potential mentors that share a similar struggle. By interacting with new people who see and get to know you where you are at now, can provide feedback and give you the opportunity to show up in new ways and see yourself unencumbered by your past associations. These are just some of the ways to rediscover and reinvent yourself.
It Starts With You
The process of change, whether we want it or not, starts with us and the greatest priority is our wellbeing. Only we have the power to ensure we are doing well. So take care and take steps towards this end
Author -Tammy Berman, LMHC