Have you ever looked back on some of the most stressful events in life and wondered how you got through them? Even more importantly, have you considered the lessons you learned along the way that made the next major life event a bit less stressful?
What I know for sure is this: when you embrace the lesson, it becomes the seed for making lasting changes that improve your life.
Life’s Most Stressful Events
Let’s start with considering which are the most stressful events in life. One research study ranks life events based on the level of stress they create for people. And most studies I’ve read have the same events in their top ten regardless of the ranking criteria. The truth is, anyone of these can knock you for a loop!
- Death of a spouse
- Marital Separation
- Death of a close family member
- Personal injury or illness
- Dismissal from work
- Marital reconciliation
Here’s the question that comes up for me: As you move through the emotional roller coaster of one of these events, how can it help prepare you to manage the next event? What can you learn from the death of a loved one, a divorce, or being laid off? Are there lessons that can help you suit-up for the time when you get a devastating health diagnosis or you face retirement?
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Lessons That Create Lasting Change
Some of the most stressful events in life have created an opportunity for me to reflect, which allows me to change the way I look at the situation. The reflection then paves the way for me to respond in a way that serves me better than reacting might do.
For instance, when my mom got sick and passed, I was feeling abandoned, angry and guilty, all at the same time. Upon reflection, I recognized how precious each lost moment was, and there was nothing I could do to get them back. It was one of the saddest times of my life—and the most revealing.
Before losing mom, my dedication to my career often put family relationships on the back burner. I thought I had more important things to take care of. After the devastating loss, my focus on creating closer ties with my father, brothers, husband, and extended family became a priority.
The lasting change that happened for me was a re-evaluation of my core life values, putting “family first” in the number one spot.
Then there was the time I was laid-off from my 20-year corporate career. It felt like a gut-punch that knocked the wind out of me. The result was me spending too much time living in victim mode—unable to get out of my own way.
With the help of a colleague, I was able to flip the switch when she asked me, “What if it was your idea? What would you be doing instead?” This change in perspective helped me to get moving in a direction that inspired me. Having lived through the unforeseen upheaval in my career, I can now help others change the way they look at similar situations.
Helping Others Through Life’s Most Stressful Events
One of the ways we can heal our own pain is to channel the pain and the lessons we learned into helping others move through a similar experience.
Here’s another real-life example. Our lives changed dramatically when my husband’s chronic back problem became debilitating about five years ago. He was unable to stand or walk without excruciating pain. As an avid athlete all his life, this took its toll on his attitude and fun-loving personality. Not only did I take on the role of his caregiver. But, I also had to take on all the household activities that he used to do, in addition to my own. It was painful to watch and stressful to manage.
The biggest lesson I learned is to ask for help from others who could lighten my load. Once I opened myself to the offers of assistance, I found the opportunity to share my situation and techniques that worked for me.
As I helped others, I felt a burden lifted off my own shoulders. It did my heart good, which raised my spirit and my energy to be a better caregiver for my husband. He noticed the shift in my attitude, and it became a mirror for him to not give up hope.
What Lessons Have You Learned From Life’s Most Stressful Events?
Sometimes, the pain we experience when life events turn us upside down can be deep and long-lasting. So much so, that we don’t know how to let it go. The suffering becomes a normal way of existing, so we stay stuck there, not realizing we have a choice.
At the moment you decide that this is not how you want your story to end, you can release the grip the event holds and see the lessons it has to teach. As you emerge on the other side, you have a new perspective, a unique insight, which you can share with others. You developed strength and resilience through the experience, and those are valuable lessons to share.
Think about your experiences and what you have learned. Perhaps, as a result of taking care of a loved one, you now understand the importance of taking care of yourself. You might also learn how to adjust expectations, so you are not constantly stressed by them.
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If you have recently gotten married or remarried, you may have learned the power of compromise without compromising your own values.
Navigating through a divorce can raise all kinds of lessons, such as the need for a strong support system. A time like this can also bring a deep awareness of fairness, forgiveness, and gratitude. Don’t laugh—this takes time, but it is all there for the learning and the sharing.
The Biggest Lesson of All
Regardless of what major life event has happened, the most important thing is to realize that you don’t have to go through it alone.
Understand that you won’t have all the answers and that it’s okay to ask questions. Seek out trusted friends to brainstorm ideas. Look for the legal or financial experts you need to help in those areas that are not in your own zone of genius. Find someone who can help you create a vision for your life in the aftermath of the most stressful events. Allow them to guide you to make a plan so you can move forward in small, manageable steps. And, give them permission to hold you accountable for the goals you set.
Making sure and steady progress beyond some of life’s most stressful events is the best way I know of to heal the pain and learn from the experience. What you learn, you can teach. And these lessons can become what creates the most lasting change in your life.
It starts with taking a good hard look inside. Next comes being extremely honest with yourself about how you feel and what you think. Then, you get to take small steps forward in the direction you want to head. Along the way, you will create beliefs and habits that support your new vision and keep yourself on track.
If you are on the other side of one of life’s most stressful events, are you struggling to find the lessons? Making choices to move beyond the pain, loss, or grief can be hard and getting a new perspective may be just what you need. Let’s have a chat and talk about how to get you to the other side so you can live a life you love, and it will love you back. Request your chat with María.