Living Well: How to Handle Massive Change

We spend much of our lives planning changes to improve our happiness, wellbeing, health, and finances. And every now and then we go through a transition period of our lives which is truly incredible. Incredible in terms of the amount of change we face at once, and also incredible in terms of the forward progress the change provides.

Yet from my own recent experience, such a period of massive, awesome change caught me off guard. You see, within this year I decided to get married, get engaged, elope, move, close my company and switch careers, and get a puppy. That’s a whole lot of excitement packed into seven short months. I assumed that this “life makeover,” as it seemed, was going to leave me happily floating from cloud to cloud for the next few years—not because I was silly, but because I so deeply wanted each and every change that happened. Each one was a step ahead in the right direction for me.

But the cumulative effect was like running up an escalator. It was dizzying, and the happiness I expected to experience was more elusive than I imagined.

Today, I’d like to discuss what I’ve learned about big, positive changes and how to manage them so that you can stay sane, kind, and happy throughout the process.

Be Kind To Yourself

If you are going through a big awesome transition, you may likely have built up the change so much in your head leading up to the actual event that you may find yourself a bit let down. Fantasy turning into reality is not always an easy pill to swallow.

Further, no matter how awesome the new phase is, there will be unforeseen bumps in the road and challenges to face.

Do your best to be kind to yourself. You are going through a lot and you need to permit yourself feel whatever emotions you are feeling. If you find yourself a bit bummed out, stressed, or exhausted, allow yourself to be with that feeling in the present moment. It doesn’t mean you need to wallow in that feeling forever. But you can kindly acknowledge that you are taking on a lot at the moment and accept that you won’t feel perky all the time.

Also, forgive yourself for any less-than-ideal experience or reaction that you have. When you find yourself so emotionally wound up by the change and also treading in new waters, its easy to overreact, get upset, or feel guilty for not being 100% happy 100% of the time. It is okay. You are learning to live in this new life stage and it will take time to adjust.

Give Yourself a Break

If you find your schedule has massively altered since the new transition, find ways to work old routines back into your daily schedule. If you have a workout routine, do your best to keep it going as much as you can. The endorphins, energy gain, and routine can help you find normalcy and rhythm in a new, unknown life phase.

Or connect with an old friend or favorite ritual. Maybe it’s getting your monthly pedicure or game night with your girlfriends. Just because you are in this awesome new part of your life doesn’t mean that the good things from the past aren’t also integral to your overall wellbeing.

Plus, stepping back into the familiar can help you keep your bearings when you are spending time adjusting to the newness that is in your life now.

Recognize Life Will Always Have Ups and Downs

No matter how perfect your new change may seem at the start, life will inevitably throw curve balls. In fact, according to The Pursuit of Perfect, we all have a happiness set point. We can fluctuate from this set point, but no matter how exciting a life change is, we will gradually return back to our regular happiness level over time (luckily, the same goes for negative change, too). Though this set point can grow over time, it is caused by habits, not life transitions.

This means that although our lives may improve significantly from the changes we are going through, we will still have good days and bad days. We will still feel the full gamut of emotions before, during, and after our transition. Keeping this in mind and accepting this universal truth helps us stay realistic about how much this change will really impact our day-to-day emotions.

Though we may be more personally fulfilled and satisfied than ever before thanks to our awesome life change,  we will still experience happiness, sadness, joy, and grief for the rest of our lives. At no point will a change “make us happy” forever after. And once we come to a peaceful understanding of this truth, we can start to live each day of our transition with joy, compassion, and a lighthearted sense of humor when we stumble along the way.