How to maintain balance during big life changes

You just went through something big. Here are some psychology-backed tips for staying balanced while moving forward.

What's Inside

What's Inside

Change comes in many different forms–some good, some bad. And while everyone’s different, struggling to adjust after a change (even an exciting one) can be tough for many.

The science behind change

Simply put: it’s easier for our brains to stay in a familiar state. When we’ve been living or behaving in a certain way for years, our brain is familiar enough with that activity that it can perform it on autopilot, meaning we essentially go through our days without thinking.

When we go through a change–good or bad, minor or major–the brain is unable to perform in this efficient autopilot mode. In fact, it registers new and different behavior as an error, which activates our fight-or-flight response (this makes sense from an evolutionary perspective: in the past, discovering a new environment also meant you needed to stay on alert for whatever predators might be native to the territory). Eventually, your brain adapts, but if things feel especially difficult after you’ve gone through something major, even if that “something” is for the best, know that there’s nothing “wrong” with you. In fact, your brain is working exactly as it should.  

Why people struggle with change

According to psychotherapist Julia Samuel, MBE, one of the main reasons people struggle with change is their struggle to accept it. 

Per Samuel, “research shows that change happens every 7-10 years. Humans are evolutionarily wired to be adaptable to change, but because we like control, [when we] resist or block change, we have less success, less joy in life, and are less happy.” Accepting change is easier said than done, but often, our psychological response to the change makes it harder than it needs to be. 

Allow yourself to grieve

While it’s interesting to understand how much of the way we react to change is down to our brain function, it’s also important to practice self-compassion when you’ve gone through something big. Whether you’ve been through a devastating experience like a tough divorce or accomplished an exciting milestone, like starting a new life in a new country, give yourself some grace–and if you’re struggling, make sure you allow yourself time to grieve the life you left behind, if that’s what feels right in the moment. 

Get to know yourself instead of distracting yourself

When we’re going through something difficult, we often default to distracting ourselves to get through. Dr. Jud Brewer, M.D Ph.D calls this the anxiety-distraction feedback loop. “Distraction is the modern-day equivalent of avoiding the ancient or unknown in ancient times. Uncertainty makes you feel anxious,” Brewer states.“Anxiety urges you to do something…the problem is that, often, distractions are not healthy or helpful.”  

Brewer’s suggestion for moving past this? Doing a bit of self-analysis and working out your trigger-distraction-reward behavioral loop. For example: if you’ve just gotten divorced, your trigger may be that you feel lonely without your ex-partner in your house. To distract yourself from this trigger, you may spend hours scrolling social media. According to Brewer, the reward is often feeling better because of a momentary distraction from what triggered you. Brewer encourages all of his patients to ask themselves how rewarding these habit loops really are. Once you’ve identified your distracting behaviors, ask yourself what you’re getting from it. You may realize that the answer is: not much. 

Find something that makes you feel better

Brewer’s suggestion: search for the “BBO,” or “bigger better offer.” What action can you take when you need a distraction that will make you feel better afterwards? Perhaps this is practicing 5 minutes of mindfulness, a long walk (known to help stop rumination), or a cold shower before you indulge in the distraction. 

Practice non-attachment

As hard as it may seem, one of the best ways to handle a big life change is by practicing non-attachment as you move forward. There may be more change on the horizon, and the best way to deal with that is not by fearing that you’ll go through another difficult experience, but by staying present and doing your best not to attach yourself to a specific desired future. Psychotherapist Dr. Maddy Ellberger describes non-attachment as being about “not having an expectation about what’s right and what’s wrong or needing a certain outcome.”  

No matter what you’re going through, we hope this helps you feel a little stronger. And if you haven’t yet gone through a change, but have been contemplating what life might be like if you do, Marble is here to support you through it. 

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical or clinical advice. 

This page includes links to third party websites. The inclusion of third party websites is not an endorsement of their services.

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Disclaimer: This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

This page includes links to third party websites. The inclusion of third party websites is not an endorsement of their services.

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