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5 Tips for Surviving Major Life Changes

P1050023After several months away from a reliable internet connection, and sometimes electricity and therefore my blog, I am back.

As I write this first post saying “hello” again, saying, “I am so excited to be back in so many different ways,” I am also grieving.

As Semisonic sang almost 20 years ago, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  I re-begin my blog and my life in the United States only by ending and leaving many people who I loved in Ghana.

Many readers are familiar with the Holmes-Raye Life Stress Inventory.  The inventory was designed to predict the chance of a health breakdown based on the quantity and quality of stressors from the past year.  It can be surprising to see how many of the stressors are things that are generally considered positive: marriage, gaining a new family member, taking on a new mortgage, outstanding personal achievement. The fact is that even positive change is change, and it requires adjustment.

We are built for routine and sameness. Even people who crave change and chases stimulation have to adjust to new routines and new ways of doing things.

Here are five things to know about facing a major life change:

There will be major ups and downs

It’s completely normal to swing from euphoric highs to intense despair in the space of an hour.  Just let the waves of emotion come and go using that mindful awareness you may have read about

You will get it wrong

Learning new things is very humbling. An American friend of mine who moved to Germany a few years ago was talking about how challenging something like grocery shopping could be. “I have a master’s degree—why can’t I figure out how to buy bananas?”

Be patient with yourself when you get it wrong. It took a long time to master those old routines, and it will take some time to learn the new ones.

It’s exhausting

Things that were simple in the old life, whether it was scheduling an appointment or scheduling time off now have a new dimension.  You will probably feel more tired than usual, so it’s extra important to be getting enough sleep and eating right. Keep this in mind when making commitments for a while.

You will feel very alone

So many major changes are “common” and aren’t heralded by any fanfare—moving, starting school, changing jobs.  Others are guarded by a code of silence—infertility, the end of an affair, termination, divorce.  It can feel like everyone is moving complacently in a sea around you and not helping at all. Peers who are going through a similar transition can be helpful, but at the end of the day, no one knows what it is like to be you in this moment. To that end, be patient with those who are making the change with you and processing differently.

There’s no going back to the old you

For better or worse, change forces us to grow. Even as little as a few weeks in a foreign country, becoming homeless after a flood, or recovering from a serious illness, can change us forever. There’s no such thing as completely re-entering your old routines as though nothing happened. As always, be patient and mindfully observant. The new you may need different friends or a different job or a new relationship or something.  That’s more change.  Really, that’s life.

5 Tips for Surviving Major Life Changes

Sara Staggs, LICSW, MPH

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APA Reference
Staggs, S. (2016). 5 Tips for Surviving Major Life Changes. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Jun 2016
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