When abrupt change strikes at work or at home — possibly even both simultaneously — it can be stressful and overwhelming.
Unexpected life changes can make it difficult to appreciate everything you’re lucky to have at the moment, but there are ways to embrace the changes so you can continue to pursue your life and career without being derailed by them.
Think about the important things in life
When you’re feeling unsettled by changes, one of the most important things you can do to stay grounded is to think about your strengths, experts say.
Researchers Geoffrey Cohen and David Sherman, drawing on decades of psychological studies, wrote in a 2014 study that people who experience change — from a loss of a job to a health scare — fared better in the face of challenges when they stopped to journal about the qualities about themselves they most valued.
“Self-affirmations can reassure people that they have integrity and that life, on balance, is okay in spite of an adversity before them,” the pair wrote in their study, “The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention,” published in the Annual Review of Psychology.
So, for example, students who got a bad grade who took a moment to reflect on their own good qualities didn’t take it as personally as students who didn’t take the time to reflect on their strengths, the researchers found. And the positive benefits had lasting effects, they found.
“[A] series of 10-minute self-affirming exercises, which prompt people to write about core personal values, raised minority student achievement in public schools, with effects that persisted for years,” the researchers wrote.
Put your mental and physical health first
While it might be tempting to try to ignore or bury your feelings of fear or anxiety, in the long run, you’ll be better off if you keep tabs on your stress levels as the changes evolve.
Getting enough exercise, plenty of rest and eating well are also ways to make time for self-care during periods of immense change.
It’s also helpful to set manageable goals to keep yourself on track, lest “stress and illness … exacerbate one another in a vicious cycle,” Cohen and Sherman wrote.
If you’re concerned that your stress is affecting your work, be proactive about scheduling time with your manager to address your concerns and come up with a plan, so you can keep moving forward.
Keep in mind that seeking professional help could also be an option.
Cut back where you can
Taking a few things off your plate might help free you from feelings of being overwhelmed, and eventually help you refocus on your priorities.
In his book, Essentialism, the Disciplined Pursuit of Less, author Gregg McKeown argues that only by cutting back on our urge to overcommit to everything can we fully commit to the things that matter the most to us.
“It’s about designing a lifestyle around the most important relationships in our life,” McKeown explains.
So evaluate areas in your life that stress you out the most, then see if there’s a different approach you can take, or scale back on the things you don’t need to prioritize, so you’re not stretched as thin when it comes to multiple commitments.
Focus on what you can control
Moving our energy to the parts of our life that we can influence — and, letting go of what’s beyond our control — can have a huge impact on our well-being.
“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t,” writes Steve Maraboli, radio host, author and behavioral scientist behind the book, Life, The Truth, and Being Free.
Talk to someone you really care about
Family and friends have an immense capacity to remind you of who you are, where you came from, what you’ve been through and all you still have to offer.
When you’re feeling down, have a conversation with a loved one in person or over the phone — they’ll probably introduce perspectives you haven’t thought of yet, which give you hope.
They can help you find comfort in everything you have going for you.
Appreciate the little things
Whether it’s driving by a beautiful house in your neighborhood, enjoying your favorite meal, of spending time with your kids, find the bright spot when things get muddled.
Making room for the appreciation of good things might just help you find the silver lining.
When you’re overwhelmed, don’t forget that things will continue to change, but chances are, something even better could be in your future.
Plus, today will never come again, so don’t miss out on everything this day has to offer.