Thursday, July 11, 2013

10 Tips for Surviving a Life-Changing Event

Disclaimer:  I am not a therapist or a counselor.  I am a working mom who is attempting to take on this life change as gracefully as possible.  People are facing health issues, family problems, marital concerns, aging parents, difficulties with children, and many other life-changing events.  So, here are some tips that have helped me this far in my journey.

1.  Get plugged into a local congregation.  Surround yourself with people who will be a good influence on you...who will lift you up, not drag you down.  Being a part of corporate worship will boost that connection between you and God.  Being involved in a small group will give you strength during a difficult time from other people who are struggling but who are handling life's challenges in a positive, healthy way.  Being under Godly, biblical teaching will help give you direction in your life.

2.  Seek Christian counsel.  Whether it be a pastor, Connect Group leader, professional counselor, or trusted friend.  Find a safe person to unload your thoughts on, someone who will not judge, but who will hold you accountable in a loving way.  Any life change can bring on feelings of guilt, rejection, pain, isolation, anger...we need to feel those things, but we should not dwell on them.  Find someone safe who can help you work through your thoughts and feelings.

3.  Write things down.  Sometimes you feel a million things at once.  There are days when you are so totally overwhelmed with all the changes that you feel like you may be going crazy.  Get a notebook and a pen and just write...write til your fingers hurt.  It is so cathartic to get your thoughts and feelings on paper.  If you get into the habit of writing everyday, you can pick up on patterns, and you can see how God is working in your life (if you are letting Him).

4.  Make a list.  List what is true about the situation you're in.  List what is not true.  It is so easy to let the negative emotions take over.  But you need to look at what the reality of the situation is versus the lies you may be facing.  Take ownership of your part of the problem, but let go of the things that are not in your control. 

5.  Let people help you.  This is the hardest things for me, and I think for a lot of people.  We are fixers by nature.  We want to help others, and it can be very difficult to let others help you.  If a trusted friend offers to watch your kids for a couple of hours, take her up on it!  Go home and take a bubble bath or a nap.  If someone asks what you need...TELL THEM!  They would not ask if they weren't interested in helping you.  Many people don't know how to help, so if they ask, tell them!

6.  Make time to do something new.  When a life-change happens, it opens up doors for you to grow and stretch.  This may mean picking up a new hobby, trying a new sport/activity, doing something you never thought you could/would do.  I never thought I would be leading a Bible Study for women...mainly because I'm afraid of more than 3 women at a time, and I have never thought I was a "teacher" for adults.  But, I followed God's prompting, and I'm doing it. It's surreal, but such a blessing.

7.  Find a healthy distraction.  There are days when you just need to unplug from reality.  I am NOT talking about making poor choices that could forever effect your life...I'm talking about finding something that is soothing to you.  I have a friend who runs to unwind.  I have another who likes to bake.  Personally, I go to the movies.  That's my happy place to disconnect from reality for 2 hours and exist in a safe, but semi-mindless state.

8.  Help others.  Truly, the best way for me to cope during my struggles is to help others with theirs.  This can be as simple as helping with a canned food drive, collecting school supplies, doing yard work for a neighbor, spending time encouraging someone else.  DO NOT do this as an opportunity to commiserate or judge your pain with someone else's.  This step only works if you are looking for a way to be a blessing to someone else, not if you are trying to avoid your problem or try to make yourself feel better or worse by seeing someone else and their struggle.

9.  Count your blessings...and write them down.  It is very tempting, and understandably easy to only see the heartache and pain you are going through.  But, in the midst of this stormy season, you are blessed.  Sit down in a comfy spot, break out that notebook and pen again, and start listing the blessings in your life.  If you struggle to remember them, rip that page out of the notebook and put it on your fridge or bathroom mirror.

10.  Pray and read the Bible.  I know this is the "Christian" answer to problems.  However, these are great tools.  Prayer is our way of communicating with the Lord.  He knows your heart and mind, so you might as well tell Him what you are thinking.  If you struggle to pray, write your prayers down.  If you can't come up with words to pray for whatever reason, open the book of Psalms and "borrow" some of the prayers of David.  Get into the Bible.  Find passages on encouragement (I recommend Philippians).  The Bible is God's way of "talking" to you.  Spend time reading this valuable book!  It will not disappoint.

I'm sure there are many other tips that could make this list.  These are just my top 10 that have helped me walk through the challenging seasons of my life.  Most importantly, know that you do not have to walk through life alone!  Take advantage of those in your life who love you and want to support you!

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