How Long Does it Take to Adjust to a Life Change?
It seems my family is always facing change or settling into a new normal. Whether it’s a happy milestone, such as our oldest son’s graduation, or a more difficult change that involves grief, our life doesn’t stay the same for long. When I was in my twenties I often wondered: How long does it take to adjust to a life change? As the years have passed I’ve found that I can count on a certain adjustment period with most life changes. After this amount of time I’ve usually worked through the changes and am comfortable with the new normal.
I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good routine. In fact, a good daily routine can lessen stress in both children and adults. Unfortunately, life didn’t get the memo and continues to bring us change and new challenges. Let’s talk about what you can do while you’re adjusting to a life change and how long it might take before you’re comfortable with the change.
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Which Life Changes Create Stress?
Did you know even positive life events such as getting a new job, getting married, moving to a new home, or increasing your salary can cause stress? If you’re interested in estimating your level of stress from major life events, check out the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale on MindTools.com.
When I practiced family therapy I often reminded families in crisis that the biggest chance of dysfunction comes during times of change or transition. If a family can make it through a major change without turning on each other, they’ll eventually be okay.
It’s important for moms, who generally absorb the stress of their families, to have healthy coping strategies when faced with a life change. If we’re taken down by stress-related illness the whole family is affected. Please remember that self-care is not selfish. You have to be at your best if you want to help anyone else. You can’t help anyone if you have nothing to give. We’ll talk more about healthy ways to cope with life changes later in this article.
It Takes About Eighteen Months to Adjust to a New Normal
Over the years I’ve noticed it takes me about eighteen months to adjust to a life change. Whether the change was positive or negative things still feel pretty new, or even raw, for the first year. After that I find myself settling into a period of acceptance over about four-six months that brings more calm and clarity. Around the eighteen month mark I’ve usually adjusted to the change.
Eighteen Months to Adjust to a Life Change . . . Unless . . .
The number of life changes you have during the eighteen-month adjustment period might affect the time it takes for you to feel comfortable or settled, however. For example, I’d only been married for ten months when my first son was born. Then before he was eighteen months old I had a miscarriage and then became pregnant for a third time.
My oldest was just over two-years-old when my second son was born. Within months of our second son’s birth we’d bought a home and I’d left my work-at-home job to become a stay-at-home mom. Less than eighteen months later, I was pregnant with my third son. My husband had some career changes within that time, as well.
For the first six years of our marriage there was little time for settling into one major life change before another popped up. In fact, as we began to settle into life as a family of five our oldest started Kindergarten.
I should stop adding to the story now because I could go on for a while until I get to the past year when our oldest son graduated and our middle son started driving. Oh, and now we’re caring for aging parents. But, you get it! When you have back-to-back life events it can increase your stress and lengthen the time it takes to fully adjust.
By the time my third son was born, however, I knew it would take around eighteen months to get back on top of the housework, our marriage, my exercise routine, etc. And like clockwork, when the eighteen month mark rolled around I realized I finally felt comfortable with my daily routine. (Check out my daily routine as a stay at home mom with a toddler.)
I know eighteen months seems like a long time. Naturally, it may take you less time to adjust to major life changes. It all depends on your support system, your level of self care, and the other stressful events you’re dealing with.
While you wait to settle into a life change, try these five things to help yourself along.
Five Practices to Help You Cope With Change
Because times of transition are the most likely to cause dysfunction within a family you need something to help you deal with the stress of change. These five practices have helped me cope with change over the years.
Journal During Life Changes
Keep a record of the changes and of your feelings about the changes. Even if the change is a positive one – such as buying a new home – you’ll be glad you journaled during the transition.
Gratitude journaling is especially important during difficult time. (Grab my free printable gratitude journal to get started.)
Grief journaling helps with difficult life changes, as well.
Ask For Help – Reach Out to Your Support System
Sometimes when we’re going through a difficult time we like to keep it hidden. It’s natural to want others to think everything is fine. Especially when the life change is a happy one – like getting married or having a new baby – we think we shouldn’t be struggling.
The truth is that even happy life events can be stressful. It’s okay to be honest about that.
If you feel forgotten by your support system, remember it’s not up to others to anticipate your needs. If you’re good at hiding how difficult things are, you definitely can’t expect your loved ones to know that you need help.
We have to recognize our own needs and ask for help when we need it. Slay your pride, ask for help, and start feeling better.
Get Enough Sleep
Stress depletes nutrients. In addition to eating a healthy diet and taking good mineral supplements like magnesium and zinc you have to get enough sleep.
Is stress keeping you awake? Try listening to sleep meditations or sleep music to fall asleep. These sleep headphones are my favorite for all night listening.
Find time every day to sit quietly. Be aware of how your body feels. Use this time to imagine the best outcome for your life transition. Try to feel the positive emotions you’ll feel when you’ve become comfortable with your new normal.
If you need some help to focus while meditating try these free guided meditations.
Maybe you’re experiencing a life change you didn’t want. You might be dealing with the end of a relationship or a job loss or another negative life change. If you were forced into a stressful life event you may have to deal with feelings of resentment, abandonment, or loss in addition to the natural stress of a transition.
It’s never too soon to start practicing forgiveness. No, that doesn’t mean you have to skip over your feelings of resentment. It means you allow yourself to feel them as strongly as they come. That’s how to get to the other side of those feelings. Seek therapy if necessary.
Practicing forgiveness simply means doing the active work to acknowledge the negative feelings and/or the loss and then doing the work to move forward. Remember, forgiveness is about getting relief for yourself, not letting the other person off the hook.
Keeping a forgiveness journal can help.
Try these forgiveness meditations, as well.