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Strategies for Handling Life Changes

Experts say that when change occurs, it's important to recognize and acknowledge it, rather than trying to ignore or avoid it. Once you acknowledge change, you can effectively work toward accepting it. Some tips for dealing with change are listed here. Although some of them may seem obvious, they're all important.

Money Morsel

A friend in a high-paying health care administration job saw the writing on the wall when her job responsibilities were cut in half. Figuring that she was on her way out, she contacted a headhunter, negotiated a terrific severance package with her company, and resigned from her job. Four months later, she started a new job with a comparable salary, while still benefiting from her severance pay. This is a great example of someone who anticipated, acknowledged, and acted offensively in the face of change.

  • Try to not be afraid of change. Accepting that change may occur at any time can help you to adapt when it does. Routine might be comfortable and reassuring, but acknowledging that it could change at any moment will help you to better cope when it does.

  • Get a support system in place. It's better to have a support system in place before change occurs than to try to establish one when it does. Hopefully, you've got good friends with whom you can share problems and concerns. Perhaps you could talk with a clergy member or have a relationship with a counselor. Rely on family members for help—they're the people who love you most and want to help. People who have strong support systems normally come through stressful situations far better than those who don't. They also stay healthier, live longer, and are generally more successful.

  • Take care of yourself. When change occurs, it's important to pay attention to your physical and emotional health. Change produces stress, which can have very real and serious health consequences. Get enough rest, eat well, and take time every day to get some exercise, even if it's just a 15- or 20-minute walk. Reach out for friends or family members, and talk about how you're feeling. Continue with activities that you enjoy, such as playing the piano or hiking in the woods. You might consider joining a yoga class or getting a massage.

  • Take charge of change. If your job situation is changing rapidly, and the changes aren't for the better, take the bull by the horns and do something about it. Ask your boss if you could be reassigned to a different area. Or think about looking for a new job. If your changes are occurring because your spouse has withdrawn from you and your relationship has badly deteriorated, ask if he or she is willing to see a marriage counselor. If the situation is impossible, and the relationship past saving, you may want to consider ending it. Doing something is almost always better than doing nothing because it gives you a sense of having some control over the situation.

  • Don't blame yourself for changes you can't control. Many of us have a tendency to blame ourselves when a life-changing event occurs. “If only I wouldn't have let him use the car, the accident wouldn't have happened.” “If I'd set a better example when she was young, my daughter wouldn't be getting a divorce.” “If I was 20 pounds lighter, my husband wouldn't be having an affair with his secretary.” You get the picture. Change will keep happening, regardless of how we feel about it. Blaming yourself when it does is not productive, and will not help you to effectively deal with changes.

We'll all face major changes in our lifetimes. And while learning how to deal with change is extremely important, it sometimes is more than we're able to do on our own. If that's the case, you may need to find some help.

More on: Family Finances

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Personal Finance in Your 40s and 50s © 2002 by Sarah Young Fisher and Susan Shelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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