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Expert Help to Navigate Life Shifts

Jan 15 2021
7 min read
A male runner, silhouetted against the sky at sunset while running in the mountains on a steep trail.

Big changes in life often feel as if a rug has been ripped out from underneath us.

We can become disoriented, sad, confused, anxious, even depressed. Divorce, a job change, loss of a loved one, or an accident can cause enormous stress. But so can other life shifts that you planned for, and were even looking forward to; such as retiring, down-sizing into a smaller house, or watching your youngest child leave the nest. Experts say leaving behind what is comfortable or familiar can ignite fears about the future. You may start to feel overwhelmed or even paralyzed by thoughts of your life and how it is changing. We can all feel that way sometimes. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re going to get through this. ‘This too shall pass’, and ‘more shall be revealed,’ are statements to help during uncertainty. The key, experts say, is to feel calmer about what lies ahead — which requires the ability to stop dwelling on the future and to find a way to ground yourself in the present moment. Moment by moment, day by day, you can, and will, begin to feel better. Eventually, you will start to believe in possibilities unfolding for a better future. This is a mind-shift into confidence, trust, and the belief that you are able to flow with change — and perhaps one day even enjoy anticipating what comes next on the curvy road ahead. Though your experience is unique, these suggestions from Canyon Ranch experts may help you adjust, and foster confidence and balance:

Take Time to Process What’s Transpired

When a change is set into motion, it’s common to feel blinded by the enormity of it. As the days pass, make an effort to think about what is happening, but not about what will be months from now. Try to stop looping, fearful thoughts as they emerge. So if you panic and think something akin to ‘Who am I, if not working?’ tell yourself to stop. Imagine a record rip sound and say to yourself, “I am thinking a fearful thought. Thoughts are not reality. I am not my thoughts. And I am not my job. Today I ground myself in trust.”

The journey you now face might seem impossible when you get anxious and think of the future and begin to say, “How can I do this?” This is your ego and victim thinking. Even during challenges such as divorce, remember, amazing opportunities can come from the other side. Even if you can not see it now, know that you are strong, capable, and deserving of happiness. Your goal here is to ground yourself – to gain clarity over the situation, and accept that the change is happening.

Find a Way to Acknowledge Your Feelings

If uncertainty brings a deluge of feelings that are hard to handle and trigger thoughts that brew in self-doubt, self-criticism, victimization, and comparison to others, take a deep breath and give yourself a break. It is not your job to know with clarity what will come from change, or how to handle it expertly. You’re not being fair to yourself. How can anyone be new at something, and an expert at the same time? Find a way to center yourself in order to allow the feelings to come and go, so you can recognize what is beneath them. One way to do this, is through deep breathing followed by a short meditation.

First, find a quiet spot where you can be alone. Inhale through your nose to the count of six or seven. Hold at the top for the count of five, and exhale deeply out of the mouth for the count of seven or eight. Do this three or four more times before thinking about anything. This settles your energy, calms your central nervous system and stops looping thoughts. From this place, breathe peacefully in and out of your nose, and meditate to a mantra. Set your phone timer to five minutes, then close your eyes. (If you have been anxious for days, you can take five minutes to center yourself, right?) A good mantra meditation is So-Hum. Breathe in and mentally say So. Breathe out and mentally say Hum. This means I Am in Sanskrit. As you repeat something that means next to nothing to you, your mind lets go of digging in, like a dog with a bone, on anxious, looping, and usually fearful thoughts. You will give yourself a mental vacation that allows you to garner better perspective — as if from a distance, or from a vista — to better understand where your fear and anxiety is coming from. This gives you the ability to better pinpoint what is at the root of what is actually troubling you. Perhaps you miss seeing your friends? Perhaps retiring or planning that big vacation is triggering you about finances? Or, maybe having free time, for the first time in years, is creating anxiety about how to fill your days? It’s all normal and not something to judge yourself over. Let go of that perfectionism, which is also a part of your ego. Give yourself the compassion you give to your friends. State your feelings, acknowledge them without attaching or judging them, and see how lightness will fill your heart.

From there, you can begin to find solutions for some specific issues. Call friends and arrange a date in the future. Or, meet with a financial advisor to garner some control. Or, join meetup or a masterclass to explore options for potential hobbies.

Value Small Steps

When you find change difficult, it’s unlikely that you feel energized to move forward. Some things may not even be possible at this time. You might decide it’s easier just “to be” than to evolve — even if your current state isn’t making you happy. Remember that trying, not “fixing,” is enough. Just making an effort is progress in and of itself, and it can be encouraging, prompting more small steps in a new direction. Perhaps you decide to join a meet-up hiking or walking group. Each excursion may include different members and be in new areas of town. You’ll begin to see what, and who appeals to you. It’s the same for any new activity you begin, whether it’s an online masterclass, or a neighborhood book club. Each new venture begins with one baby step.

With time and patience, you may find yourself handling with ease, (and even enjoying) this next phase of your life, soon to be surrounded by new friends, opportunities, and hobbies.