I have had an immensely stressful couple of days. On Thursday I received a piece of information that literally destroyed all my plans for this year. I felt as though I was inside a just-shaken snow globe. Everything in my world was topsy-turvy and I felt just dreadful.
Life is a funny thing, all twisty-turny. Life tends not to colour within the lines. Unexpected surprises pop up all the time, some good and some bad. While you’ll never be able to anticipate what life has in store for you, there are a few pieces of advice that I can offer.
Allow yourself to panic…for a little while.
I think that a short-lived bout of panic isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s totally normal to feel anxious and panicky when you’ve received some unexpected news, and I don’t think that you should suppress this. Instead, I allow myself a short period of time for panicking. Burst into tears if you want to, shake and cry, fling yourself on your bed, have a temper tantrum, do whatever you need to do to get rid of that nervous energy and rage you can feel when something unwanted crops up. Get it out of your system. Then take a few deep breaths and calm yourself as best you can. Allowing yourself to release those feelings of anxiety helps you to move forward with a clearer head.
Re-adjust your thinking
When something comes along that disrupts your plans, there are two ways that you can look at it. You can either see it as a roadblock to your ultimate goal, or you can see it as a door to new opportunities. If this curve-ball is preventing you from achieving something that you really want, find a way around it.
Sometimes we are heading in one direction and something comes along and changes the path. In that moment, you realise that you weren’t actually happy with the place you were heading to in the first place. If this is the case, treat this setback as a new beginning and take the opportunity to think about what you really want in life.
I find that the best way to tell whether you should work around the roadblock or find another path is to take note of your gut reaction to the unexpected news. If you are angry and disappointed, it’s likely that you really want the thing you were working towards. If you feel relieved, then maybe your goal wasn’t truly lighting your fire, and you should be grateful for the opportunity to change your path.
List your options.
Take a piece of paper and start brainstorming some options to deal with this unexpected turn. Don’t evaluate any of your ideas just yet, and put down everything that pops into your mind. Once you’ve got all the options on paper, then you can start reviewing them. Decide which options are unrealistic and which ones are most likely to produce the outcome that you want. Decide on a plan of attack based on these ideas, but make sure you keep this list in case you need to come up with a contingency plan further down the track.
Leap into action
Once you’ve developed an action plan, break it down into baby steps. Make a commitment to take at least one step each day, no matter how small. If you have a setback, just pick yourself up and work on a way around it. I promise that in time, you’ll get to where you want to be.
There are so many people that are available to help you get through this rough time. Talking to people about the way you are feeling and getting advice can be really helpful. One of your action steps may be to seek some professional advice from a careers councilor, a financial planner or an academic consultant who can help you to decide on the best course of action. You don’t have to move forward alone, there are plenty of people at your disposal that you can talk to.
Be extra kind to yourself.
At times of personal upheaval, you need to be extra kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes. Take responsibility for your actions, but don’t allow your guilt to take over. Reward yourself for making progress and be proud of your accomplishments. Focus on what you’re doing right rather than on what you’ve done wrong.
Is there any advice you would give to someone who is in the middle of a major life upheaval? If so, I’d love to hear it!