Major life events are not everyday occurrences, and they can bring up all kinds of emotions that can stop you in your tracks. These are times in life that can knock you off your foundation and you get turned you upside down. Pivotal moments like these can make you wonder who you are now that this event has happened, and you may feel stressed, anxious, unsteady, as though you’re living in a fog, unable to make clear decisions.  So, why are major life changes so stressful?

You feel out of control because life is happening TO you.  Especially when life events are unwelcomed or happen without warning, they can change your perspective. Your once cheery attitude becomes negative. You begin to think about all the worst outcomes. The glass is half empty and leaking from a gaping hole in the bottom.

So, what are some of these stressful life changes?

A research study was done to determine which events cause the most life-stress and here’s their top ten list:

  1. Death of a spouse
  2. Divorce
  3. Marital Separation
  4. Imprisonment
  5. Death of a close family member
  6. Personal injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Dismissal from work
  9. Marital reconciliation
  10. Retirement

Which of these have stopped you in your tracks?

 

Other Life Events Can Cause Stress, Too

There are so many other life events that don’t make the top ten list, and one of those might be the one affecting you.

Are you making a major career change? Relocating to a new home in a different city, state or country? Are your growing children leaving the nest? Has your best friend betrayed you? Are you adopting a child and suddenly find yourself in the new role of mom? Are you having trouble at work because your values are being compromised? Did your life partner just lose his job and you are now the breadwinner?

Sometimes more than one event can happen at once, and it’s like dominos falling with one push.

 

Stress Accumulates

This research study, called the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, was designed to equate stress level with its propensity to put a person at risk of illness.

Illness can come in many forms, not just those that are life-threatening.  For instance, when you feel off your game because of stressful life changes, you may be mentally and physically exhausted. This could result in your withdrawal from friends and family, calling in sick at work, or making choices that are not the best under the circumstances.

You may stop eating or eat too much. That glass of wine may turn into three or four. The pain medication in your cabinet, prescribed for one reason, may become your go-to relief for the pain of a different kind.  Any of these habits can lead to an illness of one type or another.

The stress you feel can build to a point where it is considered chronic rather than situational. It may become persistent, making it harder for you to manage the stress.

 

Results of Stressful Life Changes

Changes are a part of life.  You can’t get away from change.  And, when you’re unprepared for it, the change can cause you to worry about things beyond your control. The stress rises.

You may feel panicked, resulting in immobility—feeling stuck in one place.  Stress rises again.

On top of all that, you may not be able to think straight. In this place, it’s hard to take any action to move out of the situation causing the stress.

 

When life hits you hard you may worry that the stress of this situation will last a long time, and this can take a heavy toll on you and those around you.

 

How To Handle Stress

As there is a top ten list for the biggest life-stressors, there is an equally long list for ways to manage the stress that comes from them.  Accepting life as it comes is the first step. Resisting and fighting your way through it just makes it harder to overcome the stress and find solutions.

Stressful life changes can lead to a significant turning point in your life.  The stress can lead to a breakdown—hitting rock bottom from which there is nowhere to go but up.  From that breakdown, you can experience a breakthrough that leads to new perspectives and possibilities.

As you are contemplating why major life events are so stressful, consider these options to manage your stress. Find the ones that feel good to you so you can find some relief. This will allow you to think more clearly and cut a path to mitigating the stress, so you feel more capable of managing it.

  1. Accept that life happens.
  2. Adopt a more positive attitude so you can adapt to the change.
  3. Acknowledge the stress and find ways to control what you can to alleviate it.
  4. Give yourself time to do nothing but relax and take care of yourself.
  5. Stay calm.
  6. Think positively and manage your perspective.
  7. Manage your time and learn to say no to reduce the overwhelm.
  8. Make a plan and take action—in small steps.
  9. Trust your inner wisdom.
  10. Ask for help.

 

Easier Said Than Done, You Say?

It can be. Which makes #10 on the list an important one that you may want to make your first priority.  Going through stressful life changes alone just adds to the burden you carry. Find people who have been where you’re going and ask them for guidance, mentorship, and a sounding board.  We cannot all be experts in every area of life—especially our own.  It’s like trying to pilot the plane when your flaps don’t work. Find someone who can fix the flaps.

Change is unavoidable in this human existence of ours.  It is also unpredictable.  And with change comes the stress, in one degree or another.  Learning to plan for it, building your resilience to change and managing the stress is your best prescription.  Find the support you need to make the journey through stressful life changes easier.

 

Stepping onto Your Bridge

When life-changing moments flip the world upside down, I create a bridge for women so they can turn chaos into calm, build resilience and learn to live a life guided by their own values and vision. If you’re ready to take the first step onto your bridge and explore how change can impact you and how to move through it with more dignity and grace, get my free ebook From Darkness to Light: Learning to Adapt to Change and Move Through Transition.