Overwhelm | 15 Apr 2020

Coping better with a life changing event

Whether its you, or someone you love who has experienced it, coping with a life changing event is essential.

What is a life changing event?

A life changing event may be an accident, a terminal or chronic illness diagnosis, , a true accusation, a false accusation, the truth having been revealed after years of unknown. It can be any number of things that feel overwhelming difficult.

Controlling our thoughts and behaviours during a life changing event.

We all know that although we can control our thoughts and behaviours we can’t control external factors in our lives that can influence our thoughts and behaviours.

So, it’s all good and well trying to be this unrealistic happy, go-lucky person 100% of the time, but what about when the most terrible thing in the world happens and it sends you spiralling in a whirlpool of shock and negative emotions?

Bad things happen to good people

I hate to break it to you, but sometimes terrible things happen to good people. It’s the world we live in, and there’s not much we can do to change that. What we can change though is our ability to cope with a life changing event.

Life changing events happen every day. One day a life changing event happens and it’s the worst thing we could ever have imagined happening to us. Then, a few years down the line, another life changing event happens and that is far worse than the last one, and all of a sudden, you’re again, going through the worst life changing event of your life.

How can we cope with a horrific life changing event?

So, how can we cope with horrific, traumatic, and hugely difficult life changing events that enter into our lives like a hurricane and take all of our breath away? I’ve given you some starting point ideas below.

overwhelm life changing event

Give ourselves time to digest the information.

It’s all good and well making snap decisions but actually the best thing for us to do is not to make any decisions until we have been able to sleep on it. Sleep is essential in allowing our brain to process events of our day and to give us the ability to reflect on those evets from an intellectual perspective. So, although it may feel like we should respond urgently, take a step back and consider what would happen if we didn’t respond for a day or two. Would that make a difference in the grand scheme of things? Probably not, but it could save us a whole lot of regrets later on. If you’re really struggling with sleep check out my blog with tips here.

Find a trust worthy person to talk to.

Talking things through is one of the best steps to coping with a life changing event. Ever heard the phrase, two heads are better than one? It’s based on fact, so don’t ignore it. Whether it is a trusted friend, family member or a professional therapist, talking does help. If you’d like to get in touch with me for more information you are welcome to.

Write down your thoughts.

This is an incredibly difficult situation for your mind to process effectively, so you can help it out by writing down your thoughts. Don’t be careful about what you write. Just allow them to tumble out of you and onto your paper or phone or tablet or computer. Whatever you choose to write on. No need to do anything with them, it can just be really helpful to have them out of your head and to be able to see them in black and white.

Stressed life changing event

Grounding yourself.

What does this mean? Well, basically it means paying attention to your surroundings. When you pay attention to your environment it allows the panic station in your mind to recognise that you’re in a safe place and it can help to reduce the amount of stress hormones being sent around your body.

Fact finding.

When we are hit with an overwhelming life changing experience our thoughts can begin spiralling into catastrophising events of the future. We might think right now is horrendous, but we will start to think up even worse scenarios in our minds eye. This is counterproductive. It isn’t going to help us to sit and worry about what may or may not happen. Even if the end result is set in stone, we still dream up 101 worse ways to get to that point. And, whilst we know its not helpful, we still keep doing it anyway. So, instead, write down the facts you know to be true. It can help for you to distinguish between them and the million thoughts in your mind that are not true.

Take a break.

When you’re going through a life changing event it is stressful. Life changing events send our inner chimp into overdrive as it tries but fails to get us back on our old path. So we need to think about how best to manage this extra stress. Taking time out is essential. You need a break. It might be that you end up sticking your head in a book, or binge watching a TV series on Netflix. It might be that you disappear for a spa weekend, or you take a day trip with your special people for a family activity. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something that isn’t going to make you feel more stressed.


Whenever a life changing event occurs we look into ourselves and our pasts. We analyse our decisions and behaviours, and we judge ourselves and blame ourselves for doing too much x, y, and z, or not doing enough x, y, and z. We end up feeling guilt. Questioning whether it’s our fault. Whether if we’d have just done x, y, z thing differently, would we now be in the position we are right now. We can all ruminate about the past, but it’s never going to change our present. Because we can’t change the past, but what we can do is consider how we are going to cope better with our life changes in our present and in our future.

Helpful contacts:

Cruse – https://www.cruse.org.uk/ – Support and advice to children, young people, and adults when someone dies.

Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/ – Whatever you’re going through, call us free anytime.

Rape crisis – https://rapecrisis.org.uk/ support and counselling for those affected by rape or sexual abuse.

Victim support – https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/ free and confidential support to help you move beyond the impact of a crime.

Prisoners families support – https://www.prisonadvice.org.uk/families-helpline having a loved one caught up in the criminal justice system can be scary, we’re hear to listen and give advice without judgement.

Macmillan – https://www.macmillan.org.uk/cancer-information-and-support/get-help/emotional-help/emotional-help if you’re living with, or affected by someone else living with cancer, we’re here for emotional support.

Alzheimer’s Society – https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/national-dementia-helpline for information, support, or advice.