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Life Potential

How to Work Through Big Life Changes When They Cause Anxiety

Written by James Clear
James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits. He shares self-improvement tips based on proven scientific research.
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Even if it’s obvious that making a big change will be beneficial, it can be tough. Our mind wants to stay where it’s comfortable, which means doing the same things we’ve always done[1].

From breaking up with a loved one and quitting your job to taking a leap of faith and starting your own business, making big life changes and choices is challenging enough. Here’s a wise quote by the former president of the United States.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” – Barack Obama

Your desire and drive to change will determine whether you can transform your life. You may truly alter a life when you discover your purpose and are fully committed to achieving your goals. Yes, it would require a lot of work and much more than just motivation, however, it is doable!

What Are Considered Big Life Changes?

A significant event in our lives is one that compels us to alter our worldview and perspective on the world. It might be anything as straightforward as leaving your parents’ home to something as complex as having a child. The way they affect you and alter your life is what defines them as “important.”

You frequently worry about what will happen in your life after big life changes. They are a period of difficulty and pressure that either leads to a breakthrough or a valuable lesson in life. What matters is having a positive outlook on change and being ready to face life’s challenges.

How Major Changes in Life Affect Us

Big life changes significantly impact our lives. But how do we deal with big life changes? They essentially shake the foundation of who we are and force us to start over. We are navigating uncharted waters, which is one key quality.

It’s normal to feel worn out by life and refuse the need to take care of ourselves, those around us, and our obligations. However, the purpose of life is to battle and alter our surroundings repeatedly until they are comfortable for us.


We must first comprehend the impact big life changes have on us in order to comprehend how we can adapt to them. Some of the more noticeable effects include:

1. Difficulty in Adjusting

Many people who are going through a significant shift in their lives will have trouble adjusting. There will be worries associated with any kind of life transition, whether it be favorable or negative. People may feel as though they don’t belong in their new environment or phase in their life.

This may include feeling a sense of grief and losing a loved one.

2. Feeling of Hopelessness

Feelings of discouragement and depression can accompany change and leave you feeling overburdened. This is due to the fact that big life changes inevitably come with failures and disappointments. Reality frequently strikes hard and has an impact when there are no parents, friends, or even financial security to soften the blow.

3. Mental and Physical Fatigue

According to studies, when big life changes occur in your life, you inevitably get more mentally and physically worn out. This is because making adjustments requires more energy, which you don’t have much of.

You can find yourself in a position where you work so hard that you are too exhausted to go to the gym anymore. Because rest is so scarce, there may also be a mental reluctance to engage in activities like hobbies.


4. Agitation and Irritation

When a person experiences big life changes in their life, they may become more agitated with themselves and the people around them.

There are numerous additional elements that go into this, such as being irritable, worn out, or needing rest, all of which can lead to people snapping. Similar to the case of a negative change, people may become upset if they don’t feel appreciated or given enough attention.

5. Struggling with Financials

Your economic life and spending patterns are affected by financial changes. It could manifest as bankruptcies or winning the lottery. You might need to budget money for rent or tuition. You would have to go through a process where you would have to forgo expenses that are not necessary to you.

6. Distancing of Relationships

When someone is going through a significant transition in their life, distance from relationships is rather typical. With distance and a lack of quality time, priorities change, and relationships weaken. People’s successes after positive adjustments frequently reveal repressed jealousy or cause a conflict of interest between pals.

Signs It’s Time to Start Changing Your Life

You can start improving your life at any time you choose, but how to deal with change in your life? There are a number of telling signals that something has to change.

1. When Your Current Life Shakes Your Physical and Mental Health

Even while you may try your best to enjoy life to the fullest by carrying out your obligations, this does not always imply that your situation is optimal. We occasionally break by exerting too much strain on our bodies while trying to live the life of our aspirations. If it starts to impact us mentally at such times, we don’t even bother.

Take it as a sign that you need to start making changes in your life when you see that your daily activities are having a bad impact on your physical and mental health.


2. You Can’t Maintain Work-Life Balance

A disturbed work-life balance results from overcompensating in only some areas of life. While there will inevitably be times when you must concentrate more on one component of your job than another, you need to be cautious when this starts to become a habit.

It is obvious when you are overstressed and heading in the wrong direction when you are unable to maintain a healthy balance between work and life.

Do you truly want to continue concentrating on one aspect of your life, or do you prefer to have a well-balanced life? When you notice a discrepancy in your work-life balance, ask yourself these questions, and then start making big life changes.

3. You Feel Stuck

We experience a mental condition where we lose faith in ourselves and develop a mental block as a result of a number of factors. Numerous unpleasant feelings may be triggered by events like the loss of a loved one, being fired from a job, losing a child custody dispute, getting divorced, etc.

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” – Georg C. Lichtenberg

Some of these traits tend to push people into a dark ditch where they feel stuck till they recognize it. Some of these characteristics have a tendency to lead people into a deep hole where they feel trapped until they realize it.


When you are experiencing something absolutely terrible, it is acceptable to occasionally sulk in it. But it must never allow you to become hopelessly stuck in life. You must learn to deal with changes.

Failure to step out of your comfort zone is a sign that you need to make big life changes.

4. You Start Forming Negative Habits

When people feel trapped, it has a spiraling effect that leads them to turn to bad behaviors for comfort. Bad habits like excessive eating, drinking, or smoking is signs that you are not handling this properly. Many people have a tendency to abuse their current routines and start purposefully injuring themselves.

Keep in mind that causing suffering to oneself will never help you solve the problems, and it won’t even help you recover from the pain and mental anguish. Adopting undesirable habits that you are aware of is a sign that you need to start living a different life.

5. Your Lifestyles Fail to Lead You to Your Goals

Being adaptable creatures, we make an effort to modify our behavior to meet the circumstance. We frequently begin developing habits out of necessity without considering if they are consistent with our long-term objectives. Here, the negativity starts to spread to other areas of life.

As a result, it’s critical to periodically consider your life. You can restore your focus and determine whether you are making progress toward your goals by doing this.

4 Steps to Dealing With Big Life Changes

We can’t control every aspect of our lives, and we can’t stop change from happening. However, how we respond to change will greatly affect our overall life experience.

Here are 4 ways you can approach big life changes in a positive way.

1. Don’t Fight It

A great yoga instructor of mine once said, “suffering is what happens when we reject what is already happening.” Since then, the lesson has stayed with me.

Usually, we have no control over how our lives alter. Try flowing with the moment rather than attempting to control it or wishing things were otherwise.


Naturally, there will be some early resistance if we are in survival mode. Make sure to recognize when this resistance is no longer beneficial to you.

It’s time to put some anxiety management tactics into practice if you’re worried about upcoming big life changes. These could include journaling, meditation, physical activities, and talking with friends about how you’re feeling.

If you’re worried about a big life change, such as starting a new job [2] or moving in with your partner, do your best to control your expectations. Talking to people, you know about their experiences going through similar transitions could be helpful. This will assist you in creating a realistic mental image of how things will appear after the modification.

2. Find Healthy Ways to Deal With Feelings

Whenever we are going through a transformation, it can be simple to lose sight of who we are. Sometimes we experience highly unsettling feelings because we feel that life is throwing us around and that we have lost our balance.

Finding healthy outlets for these emotions is one way we can channel them. For instance, anytime I’m going through a challenging transitional period, I always find myself in a mixed martial arts gym.


I can better control my emotions and release endorphins when I exercise. Additionally, it aids in my physical fitness, which elevates my mood and gives me more energy.

Exercise is necessary for fostering pleasant feelings, but if anxiety is a problem for you, in particular, it’s crucial to establish a regular activity regimen as opposed to a sporadic one-off workout. One study found that “aerobic exercise can promote an increase in anxiety acutely and regular aerobic exercise promotes reduction in anxiety levels” [3].

If exercise isn’t your thing, there are other, less intense ways of cultivating positive emotions and reducing anxiety around life changes. You can try stretching, meditating, reading in nature, spending time with family and friends, or cooking a healthy meal.

Find what makes you feel good and helps you ground yourself in the present moment.

3. Reframe Your Perspective

Reframing perspectives is a very powerful tool used in life coaching. It helps clients take a situation they are struggling with, such as a major life change, and find some sort of empowerment in it.

Some examples of disempowered thinking during life changes include casting blame, focusing on negative details, or victimizing [4]. These perspectives can make awkward transitional phases much worse than they have to be.


Meanwhile, if we utilize a more positive perspective, such as looking for a lesson in the circumstance, seeing that there might be an opportunity for something or understanding that everything passes.

4. Find Time for Self-Reflection

At any point in your life, taking time to reflect is crucial, but transitional times call for it even more. It’s really fairly straightforward: when things become a little wild, we need some space to take a step back and center ourselves.

Therefore, significant life shifts are ideal opportunities for self-reflection. They are chances for us to check in with ourselves and practice grounding ourselves temporarily.

Take a look at this reflective cycle adapted from Gibbs’ self-reflection guide (1988):

gibbs reflective cycle

    Self-reflective exercises include meditating, yoga, or journaling, all of which require some quiet time to get yourself together.

    One study found that journal improves “self-efficacy, locus of control, and learning” [5]. That in itself is a great incentive to try self-reflection through journaling since it can make the process of transformation easier to handle when one has a strong sense of self-control.

    To learn how to start journaling, you can check out this article.

    6 Reminders When You’re About to Give Up Changing

    It’s time to push a small reset button and start changing your lifestyle when you feel that your lifestyle (attitude toward your profession, career, spouse, friends, etc.) will never help you attain your goal.

    1. You’ll Never Have All the Information

    We frequently put off making crucial judgments because we need more data before we can decide.

    Yes, it is undoubtedly true that you should conduct a study, but if you’re hoping for a quick response, you’ll likely end up waiting a very long period. Humans are inquisitive beings, and our desire for knowledge may be incapacitating.


    A succession of assumptions, errors, and modifications make up life. Choose the best course of action you can at the moment, then carry it out. This entails developing the ability to trust and listen to your intuition.

    2. Have the Courage to Trust Yourself

    We have all kinds of justifications for not making big life changes, but the limiting assumption that frequently lies at the heart of many of them is that we don’t trust ourselves to act morally.

    We believe that we won’t know what to do or how to respond if we find ourselves in a novel circumstance. We fear we won’t be able to navigate the unfamiliar region of the future.

    Be more forgiving of yourself than that. You must have dealt with unforeseen developments in the past.

    How did things turn out when your car had a flat tire on the way to work? Or perhaps you were unceremoniously dumped?

    In the end, you were fine.

    Humans are incredibly flexible, and throughout your life, you have been learning how to overcome unforeseen difficulties. Trust yourself with enough courage. Whatever transpires, you’ll find a way to make it work.


    3. What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

    The majority of your fears are made up in your mind, much as jealousy.

    There are actually very few dangers that you can’t recover from when you properly sit down and consider the worst-case situation.

    “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” – Harold Wilson

    What’s the worst that might happen, you ask yourself? When you accept that the worst isn’t all that horrible, you’ll be prepared to overcome it.

    Write down everything you’re frightened of before making a significant change in your life. Do you worry about failing? Of appearing foolish? Of dropping cash? Of unhappiness?

    After that, write down strategies for overcoming each fear.

    4. It’s As Much About the Process As the Result

    We’re so wrapped up in results when we think about major life changes. We worry that if we start out towards a big goal, then we might not make it to the finish line.

    You may, however, change your mind at any time. And failing will just teach you what to avoid doing in the future.


    Furthermore, you haven’t failed if you don’t succeed in achieving the ultimate objective. You first set the aim, but you are free to change it if it turns out that it isn’t working out as you had intended. Both failure and prosperity do not have a final destination.

    Enjoy the process of moving forward.

    5. Continue to Pursue Opportunity

    You can be concerned about becoming stuck in a situation from which you can’t get out if you’re debating a major decision.

    Consider things from a new angle. Your options are rarely limited by new options.

    In fact, new pursuits often open up even more opportunities. One of the best things about going after important goals with passion is that they open up chances and options that you never could have expected in the beginning.

    You may be sure that you’ll always have options if you take advantage of the intriguing opportunities that present themselves along the journey to your objective.

    6. Start With Something Manageable

    If you don’t try hiking first, you can’t climb Mt. Everest.

    Maybe applying for your dream job seems intimidating right now. What can you start with today?

    Can you speak with someone in that position to find out what they believe makes them successful? Can you enhance your abilities to satisfy one of the requirements? Are there any free online courses you might take to improve your resume?

    Even though you may not be quite ready for a committed relationship, you are certain that you want to begin dating. Could you possibly ask a mutual friend out? Can you go out more with your buddies to meet new people and develop your communication skills?

    You only need to make minor life improvements today; you don’t need to alter the planet.

    Final Thoughts

    Life changes is a process that takes time. To bring about a significant life transformation takes persistent efforts and tenacious resolve.

    Setting attainable goals and implementing tiny adjustments are good places to start. You would quickly recognize yourself with a new personality.

    Although challenging, big life changes are achievable. Only if you sign up for something persistently can you have a life-changing experience. Any big life changes in your life are feasible if your willpower is strong enough to support them.

    Featured photo credit: Victor Rodriguez via unsplash.com


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