As you take a seat for the Monday morning meeting, your boss strolls in, announces the company is downsizing and tells you you’re out of a job.
Your boyfriend of three years, whose support (in your mind, anyway) made sobriety possible, just walked out of your life – for another woman.
You’re moving to a new town; it’s time for a fresh start and some new opportunities.
The scenarios for life’s unexpected recovery hurdles are endless, but these transitions can be pretty tough to handle. Even when the change is positive and exciting, it brings with it a certain amount of stress. It’s in these moments that we’re most tempted to turn to substances or relapse into old habits. And a road paved with poor decisions leads to destinations and situations we’d rather avoid.
Stress is the Enemy
Experts warn our chances of getting sick increase with the number of stressful events in our lives.And they back those warnings up with plenty of research and data, like the Holmes Rahe Stress Inventory scale. This assessment tool ranks the top 43 stressful life changes and assigns a score to each. If you score over 300, your risk of stress-related health issues goes up 80 percent.
Since stress is a known trigger for relapse, how can we avoid these negative consequences? We can avoid them by using the methods of healthy C.H.A.N.G.E.
- (C)hoose Healthy Coping Methods
Drugs and alcohol only add to our stress in the long run, so why not try coping methods that actually improve your situation and health? Exercise, for example, is a great stress-reliever. Eating healthy foods also helps us cope better. Take care of yourself physically and your mental health is likely to follow.
- (H)old Off on Big Decisions
Many of our major life changes involve making decisions…stressful ones. If at all possible, give things a chance to settle before you start making more decisions. Let’s just say a long-term relationship has just ended; don’t feel pressured to update your online profile or get matched up in a new relationship by the end of the week. Or what if you’re considering a move to another city after a job loss? Take the time to explore your options and make an informed decision before you pack everything you own and hit the road. If you rush into decisions, you’ll likely end up with additional – and unnecessary – stress in your life. Slow down a bit and create a smoother life transition.
- (A)llow Time for Transition
Be realistic in your expectations. If you haven’t adjusted to a change in a few days or weeks, that’s okay. It takes time to transition from one chapter of life to the next. Of course, the length of time varies by situation and person, but realize these things don’t happen overnight. The bigger the change, the longer it will take to transition.
- (N)ote the Big Picture
Major life changes give us the opportunity to step back and look at the big picture. We have the ability to re-examine our lives, decide what’s important and where we want to go from here. An unexpected event might push us in a new – and better – direction. Perhaps a job loss is the perfect opportunity to go back to school. Keeping a wide-angle view of the situation can help us see and seize new opportunities.
- (G)et Support
Don’t try to go through stressful times alone. Even when we’re making healthy choices, change is difficult. It’s important to talk things through. Find family, friends, a support group or other community involvement to stay connected. Social networks can help change in practical ways, as well as provide emotional support.
- (E)xpect Loss and Grief
It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of loss when things change; it’s okay to mourn – just do it in a healthy way. By using the methods above to cope with our grief – we won’t have to deny our feelings.
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