How to cope with life-changing events

Monday August 12 2013

Going through a break-up with someone can be a very difficult time – and not just for yourself, but for friends and family too.

Photo/File Going through a break-up with someone can be a very difficult time – and not just for yourself, but for friends and family too. 

It’s hardly surprising that some liken life to a rollercoaster with its changing pace, twists, turns, ups and downs. As you grow older you’re likely to have both happy and sad times, and go through situations as bumpy as the turbulence on an aeroplane.

But if you hold on, and ride out the changes that happen during your life, it will be just as fulfilling as it is exciting.

Relationship breakdown

Going through a break-up with someone can be a very difficult time – and not just for yourself, but for friends and family too. If you are in a challenging or unstable relationship, you could think about trying ‘family mediation’ if it is available in your area.

This is a way of resolving disagreements without the possible upset and expense of involving lawyers or the courts. In a typical session, everyone concerned gets together with a mediator and explains their worries and needs. Without taking sides, the mediator tries to help you to reach a compromise with one another.

Sometimes you just cannot fix a broken relationship, so you will need to think about how you are going to manage some of the changes that lie ahead. For example, maybe you need to plan new living arrangements, or sort out your finances.

Check if there are any local organisations and support groups in your local area that offer help and advice for people who are going through a break-up.

A difficult but very important aspect of a breakdown in a long-term relationship will be how this impacts on children in the family. Continuing conflict between parents can have a more negative effect on children than the actual separation.

You will need to think carefully about how to resolve disputes in order to protect your children.

After a separation you may feel a whole range of emotions from positive ones, such as hope and relief, to more negative feelings, such as anger and anxiety. You might find it helpful to look back on your relationship and weigh up the positive, nurturing things with the negative and undermining features.

Try not to blame either of you for what has happened. Doing this will help you to move on and look forward to future relationships.


Deciding to remarry after a separation or following the death of your spouse can be a difficult and life-changing time for you and for your friends and family. If you have children, you may find they have some concerns about your decision to remarry. Perhaps they are worried about implications for your financial situation, or your general health and wellbeing. Why not try having open discussions with the people close to you to talk things through thoroughly before your marriage?


Losing your job can be hard to cope with, but if you try to stay positive, you may be able to find opportunities sooner than you think. Take action by reflecting on your career and planning out your next steps both professionally and personally – this will be helpful in the long run.

If you prefer, be kind to yourself and take your mind off things for a while by doing something fun, even if it is just listening to music, or trying a free hobby, such as hiking. It is usually much better for your mental wellbeing to do something and stay active than to do nothing.

Try to establish a routine for yourself, especially if you do not have a structured day. For example, get up at a set time in the mornings and do not stay in bed if you are not asleep. You could also make a regular slot to do some exercise. Being active can boost your ‘happy hormones’ (endorphins), which helps to reduce anxiety, stress and depression.

Once you have built up your confidence, start making the first steps towards employment by updating your CV. Why not think about doing some training courses or further study to broaden your skills?

If you cannot find something suitable straight away, you could consider taking a part-time or temporary position until something more permanent comes along.

Check if there are any local organisations that can help you through the redundancy process, and provide information on issues including pay, procedures and legal rights.


Depending on your circumstances, leaving work permanently can be both positive and negative. Maybe you are looking forward to getting out of the office so you can do more fulfilling activities. On the other hand, you may have been forced to leave work because of ill health, family circumstances or issues with your employer.

When you retire, the change in pace may leave you feeling unsure about your future, both in terms of financial support and ways to fill your time. These feelings are quite common, in fact, about one in three people find it difficult to cope with the consequences of retirement.

A good way to help yourself is to make plans for what you want to do when you retire. See it as an opportunity to try something you have not done before, such as:

• volunteering for a charity or support group

• doing more leisure activities, such as cooking, walking, or arts and crafts – whatever interests you

• adopting a pet

• getting a part-time job

If you get stuck for ideas, your employer may be able to offer you support through a retirement planning service. There may be community agencies that can provide useful advice about this too.

Not everyone deals with retirement in the same way. If you are finding the transition from working life difficult, you might want to think about speaking to a professional counsellor.

He or she will have plenty of suggestions to help you adjust to your new way of life, such as joining a programme to improve your assertiveness, or a yoga or tai chi class to boost your overall health and mental wellbeing.

Action points

• Talk things through. Speaking with someone close to you may help you get support when you have a problem. If you prefer to air your worries with someone outside your situation, there are many support groups and professional counsellors you could choose from.

• Eat right. It is always tempting to tuck into unhealthy foods when you are feeling a bit low, but if you resist and eat a healthy and balanced diet, you will be able to maintain your weight and keep your energy levels up.

• Keep active. Getting your 150 minutes of moderate exercise over a week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more, will help improve and maintain your mobility, and prevent long-term health conditions, such as coronary heart disease and diabetes.

It also promotes your mental wellbeing and allows you to keep your independence.

• Sleep well. Make sure you get a full night’s sleep so you can feel relaxed, recharged and refreshed for the new day ahead.

• Stay positive. Taking a ‘glass-half-full’ attitude may help you to stay motivated, especially in times of trouble.

• Everything in moderation. Do not rely on alcohol, illegal drugs or smoking cigarettes to feel better when things are difficult.