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Handling major life changes

Tips for managing stress

In the 1960s, researchers Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe studied the potential link between stressful life events and illness. After examining the medical records of thousands of patients, Holmes and Rahe discovered that there was a strong correlation between the two, ultimately developing the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale.

Holmes and Rahe found that the death of a spouse, divorce and imprisonment were among the most stressful life events. But a person need not be widowed, recently divorced or newly imprisoned to be dealing stress sparked by a major life change. In fact, Holmes and Rahe found that marriage and retirement, two things many people would consider positive changes, were among the 10 most stressful life events.

Change can be both exciting and frightening. Men and women facing major life changes like moving, switching careers or retiring can take the following tips to heart to make such transitions go as smoothly as possible.

  • Embrace the positive. Change has its advantages and disadvantages, but once men and women have decided to make changes, they should shift their focus toward the positive aspects of changing instead of worrying about the potential negatives. For example, if moving, focus on the adventure of living somewhere new and the opportunities to explore new places and make new friends.
  • Accept your decision. Many people spend ample time mulling the pros and cons of major decisions before ultimately deciding to make major changes. People who decide to change careers may have spent years trying to decide if such a change was the right move. Once they have come to a decision and started the process of changing, whether it’s giving a boss two weeks’ notice or putting a house on the market, men and women should accept their decision and rest easier knowing they exercised their due diligence before making a final decision.
  • Commit to your decision. Fully committing to change can increase your chances of making a successful transition. If moving to a new place, look for opportunities to connect with neighbors and other members of your new community. Parents can be active in parent organizations at their children’s schools, while professionals can make a concerted effort to connect with coworkers in an effort to build strong relationships that can help their transition go smoothly.
  • Maintain existing relationships. Professionals who are moving on to new companies and adults moving to new communities don’t have to give up their relationships with current coworkers, neighbors and friends. Maintain contact with valued friends, neighbors and coworkers through channels such as social media, email or even the telephone. These people have likely been valuable resources and friends for years, and there’s no reason you cannot continue to look to them for support and provide a source of support for them should they make a major change in the years ahead.

Change is rarely easy, but men and women can take several steps to make transitions go smoothly.