There are so many things that have happened in my life that I never planned—but they happened anyway.
I never planned to be divorced. Or a single mom.
I never intended to be unemployed or even self-employed. While my own choices were a factor, some of the things that happened in my life have been unexpected.
We’ve all been there. The promotion that we were expecting goes to someone else. We don’t get that raise. We find ourselves laid off and struggling to find new employment. That relationship we wanted didn’t work out. That baby we dreamed of didn’t come. That dream we’ve been chasing remains elusive.
We’ve all faced some kind of challenge that we didn’t anticipate.
Change is one of those parts of life that we can count on—like death and taxes. Our ability to adapt determines how well we survive the wacky things that life throws at us. If we want to survive—and even thrive—with the fluctuations of life, it’s best to create some practices to survive the unexpected.
Here are just a few of the ones that I’ve found to help us go with the flow:
Breathe. It may seem ridiculous, but when we panic, the first thing we do is to forget to breathe properly, which leads to—you guessed it—more panic. We can learn to deepen our breaths—not just in those panic situations, but all the time.
Routines. This may seem counterintuitive. Why should routines help us cope with change when the change might be to our routines? There are certain routines, or rituals, that can be calming. Brewing a cup of tea (or coffee, if we prefer). Dimming the lights in the hour before bedtime. Enforcing screen-free days to lessen outside stimulation. Burning a scented candle or using oil diffusers for aromatherapy. Taking a long bath. We learn what rituals soothe us so, when a crisis hits, we can use this as our go-to list. Doing one routine a day can be a great way to reduce stress.
Meditation. Meditating daily is a great practice we can get into that will help us when the unexpected becomes our reality. Many apps offer guided meditation for whatever time frame we have available—even if all we have is five minutes. And even without an app, we can always set a timer for five minutes to clear our minds. I find that even a meditation to help me sleep makes a difference.
Yoga. Establishing a regular yoga practice can help us when stressful situations hit. We learn with the practice of yoga to deepen our breath, to bring awareness to our bodies, and to be gentle with ourselves. These are all great practices to apply outside of our yoga practice, but a regular yoga routine will help enforce this and will also remind us of this when stressors hit.
Exercise. It’s so easy to just want to crawl under the covers and go back to sleep when stress arises. We have to remind ourselves that exercise can be an essential coping skill. We can naturally boost our endorphins so that we feel good about ourselves and our lives, even when the unexpected happens.
Ground in nature. A few minutes a day in nature can make such a difference to our sense of well-being. We can take a few minutes to walk outdoors or to stand barefoot on the ground. We can go forest bathing or visit a local garden or even play outside in the rain.
Phone a friend. When the unexpected happens, we may have an instinct to isolate, but what we really need sometimes is the support of the people who love us. By phoning a beloved friend or family member, we can access one of our most important resources, and be reminded that we’re not alone and that others care about our well-being.
Sleep and then sleep some more. When we go through an unexpected life event, getting extra rest is a great way to take care of our bodies. We can nap when possible, allow ourselves to sleep a few minutes longer in the morning (perhaps with extra preparations made at night), or even retire early in the evenings to allow for extra sleep.
We can’t stop the unexpected from happening to us. There’s just no way to make sure our lives run smoothly on the courses we set. But, we can live lives that help us adapt to the changes that come. We can learn to take good care of ourselves so that we can handle whatever life throws on our paths.
We can learn to see the obstacles that arise as challenges—rather than insurmountable blocks.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman