How to Work Through Major Change in 4 Steps (Self-Care Matters!)

We’re all still in “limbo” as the COVID pandemic continues – and things continue to change around us. Public health orders tighten, loosen, the new virus variants, vaccine schedules…

Learn why being in limbo is so challenging and how to be the hero of this journey here

One very positive thing to come out of this pandemic is that government and business (those usually too-logical institutions) are realising how important mental health is – and that taking care of our selves really matters.

This week, we’re looking more closely at how to go through major change (generally) in our lives – and where self-care fits. With of course, tips and questions for you to ask yourself – we do like to be fiercely practical 😉

Going through major change

Typically, big changes in our lives are something we understand. While we may not have personally previously experienced them, we’ve likely supported friends and loved ones through something similar. And if not, we’ve probably seen it modelled in the movies or a TV show.

Some common examples of major life changes include:

  • Losing a job, changing our career
  • Moving town/country and/or Buying or selling a home
  • Family crises and splits and/or betrayals by those we care about
  • Health issues and/or Major accidents (car, workplace etc)
  • Death of loved ones
  • Financial crises (both personal and country/worldwide)
  • Political crises – including massive political divides and shifts, coups, wars etc.
  • Environmental or weather disasters
  • Rites of passage – ourselves and our loved ones getting married, divorce/end of relationships, having children, retiring.

But this COVID pandemic is different again. This situation is new for everyone, and we are still learning how to handle it.

Not only that, but COVID has been going on so long now that we likely have at least one other major life change happening in our lives eg. from the list above.

So how should we respond when our life is turned upside down?

Well, all too often we “soldier on”, stuff down our feelings and carry on as best we can.

But we can do better…

Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it. Audre Lorde

Here are 4 Positive Steps to Work Through Major Change in Your Life

1) Recognize that the change is BIG!

First, simply take a moment to recognize and acknowledge that this is hard. Life is far from normal.

This isn’t about wallowing, or feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s about recognizing and respecting what you’re going through.

1)  Recognize it’s big
  1. Make a list of all the challenges you’ve experienced (and are experiencing) as a result of the major change/s in question.
    • For COVID: Remember to think broadly and include all the unique challenges that you and your family are facing.
  2. Pause and review your list, then say something to yourself like, “This is BIG”, “This is difficult” or “Wow, this is really challenging”.
  3. Lastly, take a moment to really absorb this. Feel it. Acknowledge it.

2) Acknowledge and name how this makes you feel

When we’re experiencing major change in our lives, it’s important to name our feelings.

If we stuff down our feelings they only build and pop up (or burst out) later. Instead, fully acknowledge what you feel: this allows us to take appropriate care of ourselves.

Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.
Audre Lorde

2) Name Your Feelings

Give yourself some alone or quiet time. Then do this in your journal, think out loud – or just quietly ponder:

  1. What do you feel in your body – and where do you feel it?
    • For example I sometimes have a tense jaw, get a sinking feeling in my stomach and I have this occasional urge in my feet(!) to run and run and run to try and shake off this stuck in place feeling!
  2. Give names to your feelings. Research has shown that just naming our feelings helps to calm us.
    • Are you mad, frustrated, sad, angry? What about scared, disappointed, resentful or envious? (I have felt all of these at some stage during this pandemic!)
  3. Lastly, take a moment to absorb and process how you feel.
    • You’ve noticed and acknowledged what you feel. Now, if you can, allow yourself to feel and process those feelings.
    • Say something like, “I feel angry and resentful. I notice it in my tense jaw and shoulders”, or “I’m scared and notice my stomach has a sinking feeling”, or “I’m feeling stuck and trapped and I notice that my leg is jiggling and my mind is racing.”
    • Then you may need to have a good cry, to vent what’s bothering you aloud, thump a pillow, go for a run or give yourself a hug.

For more on processing feelings try: The 3 As: How to be a Compassionate Presence for Yourself during Difficult Times

3) Take extra care of yourself in these tough times

In times of major change, self-care matters more than usual. And whether a change is positive – or not – we all need extra space and time to adjust.

With COVID in particular, we are managing multiple stresses and challenges. And beyond the many impacts of COVID, we are also facing climate change, #MeToo, systemic racism, loss of faith in institutions, increasing social inequity – and more.

So to preserve our health (mental, spiritual, physical) we MUST put extra effort into our self-care.

3) Take Extra Care of Yourself

Here are some questions to ponder or journal around to boost your self-care:

  • What are you doing to nurture yourself, including your ‘spirit’ or ‘soul’?
  • How are you taking care of yourself physically? How are you exercising? What are you eating and drinking?
  • How are you minimising so-called “bad” habits?
  • Are you journaling, meditating or perhaps speaking to a counselor or friends to process more challenging feelings and issues?
  • Are you maintaining good sleep hygiene?
  • Are you ensuring you get outside and connect with nature (eg. a favourite tree in a local park, watching ducks on a pond) and getting some sunshine? For more ideas, check out this article on Forest Bathing.

You may also like this COVID Self-care Checklist here >>

4) Make meaning from the situation

Lastly, what are you learning? One way resilient people get through life’s major difficulties and challenges is to search for the positive, make meaning and then carry that learning forward in life.

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose. Victor Frankl

Now I don’t mean learning a new craft or skill here (although that could be true for you!). Instead, I’m talking about using life’s major challenges to explore new beliefs, actions and ways of looking at the world.

4) Make Meaning

Either ponder or answer these questions in your journal, as they relate to your life right now:

  • Over the last year or so, how has the way I look at life changed for the better?
  • When this crisis is over, how will I be different (in a positive way)?
  • What valuable new thoughts, beliefs and values can I bring into my world? What helpful new activities will I carry into post-pandemic life?
  • What do you not want to lose going forwards?
  • What meaning can you make from this situation?

Fierce Kindness LogoWrap-up

Major change is hard at the best of times. And this COVID crisis has created multiple new and uncomfortable changes for everyone – and there is still no end-date…

How we feel will cycle up and down, and when we feel down (physically or mentally) we must take good care of ourselves. Because right now, self-care matters more than ever – helping us stay strong, keep calm – and carry on.

And finally, remember that life always has something to teach us – and this is never more true than when life is at it’s most difficult.

You’ve come way too far. Remember the inner strength you possess. Remember the countless times your prayers were answered. Remember how resilient your spirit truly is. Idil Ahmed

What resonated most with you in this article? Tell us below in the comments!

If you liked this article, you may also like:

Change the world, start with you!

Image of Cute sleeping pug puppy by Ermolaev Alexander via Shutterstock


  1. Edel Connor

    Acknowledging how we’re feeling really resonates because nobody I know is really doing that or expressing it. Actually making full sentences naming those feelings is really important and will help us connect more with our bodies. By connecting with our mbodies more we can choose a body therapy which we enjoy and can help us. Cuurently, I’m really enjoying Yoga and mantras. I find the mantras really powerful. Making the body resilient helps the mind.

    • Emma-Louise Elsey

      Hi Edel, I’m glad you found this article helpful! And yes, having your own way of processing / embodying feelings is really important. And connecting with our bodies (where our feelings are stored/felt!) is really important too. Yoga is great, mantras are awesome for calming! Massage is my favourite option – just not possible right now with COVID! Mindfulness, time in nature – so many options 🙂 Warmly, Emma-Louise


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.