Life has a tendency of throwing us curveballs right when we think we can’t handle them, doesn’t it? Maybe you’re a few days from starting your new job and then you come down with the flu. Or you’re getting ready to drive to a networking event or important meeting and your car won’t start.
Or sometimes, you may even be thrown a bigger curveball. There are positive things such as welcoming a new baby into your home or getting a promotion. But some are more difficult, like getting laid-off from your job, losing a family member, or struggling in the midst of a mental health crisis.
We call these types of crises “life-quakes,” when you are shaken to your very core and don’t know what your next steps should be, how you’ll ever rebuild what was lost. And while some damage from a life-quake may never be fully repaired, there’s always an opportunity to grow through the circumstances. That’s what we’re taking a look at today.
Brain Chemistry and Life-Quakes
The reason that life-quakes are so major is due in large part to the way in which our brains digest the information. Major changes can create a “chaos” in the brain in which it’s unsure how to fully process the situation. Stress may lead to poor and irrational decision-making and a lapse in logic. And, surprisingly, the brain processes positive changes in the same way as negative processes.
While some people handle change better than others, we’re all hardwired to prefer patterns and simplicity over changes to a certain degree. This is what makes life-quakes so difficult. However, understanding what’s happening in your brain during a major life change is the first step toward creating a coping strategy and a way to rebuild.
Pause Before You React
Whether your life-quake is over in a few seconds or takes place over several weeks, always be sure to take inventory of your thoughts and feelings before jumping into a reaction.
Viktor Fankl once said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Fully assess your situation as you work toward providing a thoughtful response, because your response may ultimately affect how your life-quake plays out in the end.
Depending on your unique situation, this is often the hardest part, if it is part of your process at all.
Because our brain craves those patterns and consistency, you may be tempted to make quick decisions in order to bring you back to your comfort zone. It’s completely natural, and may in some cases be necessary for your health and well-being.
However, in other cases, it may be necessary to endure the life-quake, struggle through the changes it brings, and come out stronger on the other side. Develop healthy coping mechanisms that allow you to safely express your feelings and build better habits.
What would it be like to focus on the positive things in life? Set aside 15 to 30 minutes to sit and write down the things you are grateful for. The things that are going well for you. Focusing on the positive will broaden and expand what is working. This can be a positive and effective way to handle stressors while making them much more manageable. Focus on the good.
For example, you could schedule a worry time each day. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes to sit and write down all of the things you’re worried about. Then, when worry time is over, you don’t allow yourself to think about the things that you wrote down. This can be a positive and effective way to handle stressors and make them more manageable.
Seeking counseling and coaching, depending on the particular life-quake, can also help. By finding someone to talk to who will actively problem-solve with you, you can begin to create an action plan for assessing your current situation and how to navigate through it.
Use the Opportunity to Grow
Whenever a big change comes into our lives and we aren’t quite sure where to go, the best thing to do is try to grow through the experience. Not “move on,” necessarily, but take inventory of what has happened, how it makes you feel, and what you want to take away from it as you move into the future. For example, how will this experience affect your journey one year, two years, or even 10 years from now? Focus on what you are learning at this moment!
As much as you can, embrace the discomfort of the unknown, even as you heal from the experience. Use it to mold yourself into the person you want to be. Perhaps the life-quake is still too raw for you to take this step, and that’s okay. As life inevitably moves forward, take your time to process. Reach out to your tribe – your support system for help. This is one bump in a long, successful journey.
A life-quake is an uncomfortable thing to live through, sometimes even if the change that comes is ultimately a positive thing. However, know that you are in control of your response and your journey from there.
Don’t be afraid to pause and take a breath as you deal with the changes. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help or guidance. In the end, you are never alone through life’s big ups, and big, terrifying downs. There is always a way to seek help, even in the midst of a major shake-up.
Feel like you’re struggling and don’t know your next steps? I can help give you the resources you need to get through this life-quake. You might be in the middle of an uncertain period (whether that be professionally or personally), but rest assured that I’ll be there to support you. Get in touch today.