How Journaling Can Assist You During Big Life Changes
Life changes are inevitable. In fact, it’s an oft-reiterated axiom that the only constant in life is change itself. So: if life changes are going to happen, how can you prepare for them? Fortunately, there are several tried-and-true support systems and tools at your disposal.
The first support system involves journaling. Keeping a journal is a great way to log, track and review the changes that occur in your life. Another tool involves seeking out coaching from a professional life coach who can assist you in recognizing, coping with, understanding and working through moments of change.
Below, we’ll look at both tactics for addressing change, and which might work best for you.
How can journaling help with life changes?
Journals aren’t simply notebooks for tracking your schedule. Nor are they just calendars, daily logs or to-do lists — when used to their full potential, journals can act as cathartic tools for processing and coping with intense life changes. Here are just some aspects of how journaling can help you process a big transition:
- You’ll get a better sense of how you really feel about change: When change happens, we don’t always know how to feel. If you go through a divorce, job loss, a breakup, a major health scare or a death in the family, you might initially feel shock, confusion and numbness. Journaling can help you more quickly assess your true feelings about a situation, allowing you to process situations with greater clarity.
This goes for good changes, too. Job opportunities and new romances still leave room for questioning and anxiety — and thus journaling about them can allow you to work through the complicated emotions that come from positive experiences, too.
- You’ll find ways to ground yourself: When change happens, it’s easy to forget who we are. What defines you if you lose your job? Who are you without a certain friend or a partner at your side?
One way to ground yourself through journaling involves writing about the traits and beliefs that make you who you are. Regardless of the changes that occur in your life, what do you value? What do you cherish? What do you believe in? Which experiences do you like, and which do you dislike? Answering these “core value” questions will help you remember who you are no matter what changes occur in your life.
Defining life changes
It may be hard to write about change if you don’t know what a flagship life change looks like. So: what exactly “counts” as a life change?
First, a transition can be either planned or unplanned. You may see it coming, such as a big move from one state to another, a marriage, a new job or an end-of-year raise. Or you may not: the illness of you or a loved one, an unexpected career development, the death of a friend or an unplanned pregnancy all constitute as major unplanned life transitions.
The important thing to remember is that all change, planned or unplanned, and good or bad, comes with resistance. Whether you see it coming or not, you will naturally feel anxiety, fear or confusion about a major life transition when it happens. This comes from a feeling of unfamiliarity toward new situations, which in turn triggers our fight-flight-or-freeze response. Common feelings as a result of change involve anger, fear, shock, disillusionment, confusion and more.
The truth is that anything that feels like a major change to you is a major change. It’s up to you to determine what a transition looks and feels like — and just as that’s true, it’s also up to you to decide how you want to process and move through that transition.
If you’re still curious about what counts as a big life change, here’s a short list of experiences that many consider to be major, life-defining transitions:
- Getting married
- Landing your first job
- Having children
- Getting fired
- Moving through a breakup
- Making a major purchase, such as a house or car
- Going through a divorce
- Experiencing the death of a loved one
- Navigating your gender identity or sexuality
- Contracting a serious illness or disease
- Becoming a caretaker for someone
- Working through the infidelity of a partner
- Growing up and moving out
- Going to school or college
- Experiencing a financial hardship
- Entering retirement
- Gaining a new faith or switching religious institutions
If you’re experiencing one of the major life changes above — or something equally important but not listed here — there are a few journaling strategies you should consider. Here are some to get you started:
- Tell the narrative: In order to process change, we have to tell the story of how that change occurred. Using your journal as a way to tell the narrative of a major life transition is how you’ll gain perspective and clarity about the situation. How did the experience make you feel? What’s been the hardest part of working through this transition? And what silver linings, if any, can be found? Write these out in your journal to better understand how your life has changed, and what emotions you’ve experienced as a result.
- Praise the change: Are you going through a breakup? Congratulations! Experiencing a harrowing divorce? Pat yourself on the back. Did you get fired or lose out on a promising financial opportunity? That’s fantastic!
If it sounds trite or strange to “praise” the change in your life, that’s natural. The point here is to see change not as a catastrophic problem in your life, but as an opportunity for new, important things to come.
If you’re going through a breakup, that means the right person for you is waiting out there. If you got fired from a job, there’s a wonderful employer just waiting to hire you. If you’ve been humbled by an illness, you have a deeper, wiser perspective than someone who hasn’t had to go through what you have. Try this: write down the big change that’s happening your life and then write down all the opportunities you’ve had as a result of it.
- Journal with others: You don’t need to process everything alone. If you’re someone who prefers to talk through difficult transitions with others — instead of by yourself — you may benefit from signing up for an online journaling platform. Journaling platforms act as digital support systems for people experiencing hardships of all kinds. Many are two-way systems, too, meaning you’re paired with a responder who reads and replies to your journal entries.
Building support with a coach
A proper life coach acts as a support system for you when you need it most. While journaling is a great tool for self-reflection, nothing beats a certified professional who can personalize their support based on your unique traits and needs. Finding the right coach can not only help you move through a life transition faster, but it can also help you accelerate your progress toward new goals and milestones as you recover from a significant change.
If that sounds beneficial to you, there’s a host of great coaching platforms out there to consider. Just be sure to find a coach that’s:
- Approachable: A great coach is someone you feel comfortable talking to. If you’re working with someone who you feel judged by, you won’t be able to talk about the true nature of what you’re going through. Look for a coach who is respectful, thoughtful and warm — someone you can build support with day in and day out.
- Intuitive: Great coaches can help you arrive at conclusions you yourself don’t initially see. A coach who understands you just as well as you do is key to uncovering new learnings about yourself and the way you view the world when change happens.
- Challenging: This may sound counterintuitive, but having a coach that challenges you is necessary for strong personal growth. A life coach who doesn’t push you to do your best and be the person they know you can become isn’t moving you forward — they’re keeping you in place.
Both journaling and coaching are great resources for processing major life changes. Consider using one or both of these tools as you work to understand a life transition and move through it with as much grace and ease as possible.