Coping with the Unexpected

As I was driving the other day, every dashboard light lit up and the car started acting weird. Anxious, I drove straight home only to find that my A/C was also acting strangely. Needless to say, dealing with the coincidental malfunctions made for an interesting day/night. It got me thinking about how life is full of unexpected events, and how each of us deals with the unexpected very differently.

It’s really important for us to think about how we cope when unexpected things happen.

In my office, I hear about the unexpected all the time. Often, we talk about very painful and heartbreaking experiences, like the sudden ending of a relationship, losing a job, the trauma or a sudden death, car accident, or even an unexpected medical diagnosis. The reality is that we deal with the unexpected every day. Some things are easier to handle than others. When those challenging unexpected things make us stop in our tracks, we can find ourselves paralyzed, for a brief moment or for a long time.

The beauty of the unexpected is it can show us how strong we can be, and how, we often times need to slow down and refocus. The experience doesn’t always end up being life changing but nevertheless, a change has occurred. We tend to get better at handling the unexpected with experience.

How to be Prepared for the Unexpected
One way we help ourselves handle the unexpected better is by asking ourselves the following questions, before an unexpected event happens. It’s like having a backup plan in place, or a protocol for handling unexpected.
When the unexpected happens, what would do you do?

  • Think about what your first step would be
  • Consider who you would you reach out to for support
  • How would do you cope?

Because the unexpected can create anxiety, worry, pain, heartbreak and fear, we usually reach out to someone who provides us with comfort. We want to know that we are not alone in a sudden change. Alternatively, some of us, in certain situations, might run (metaphorically) and want to be alone, to feel our feeling and figure out what our next step is going to be.

Either way, the very very first thing to do when the unexpected happens isbreathe.

When my car went on the fritz last week, I had to remember to breathe as soon as those lights continued to flash. When I found out my mom had just gotten out of emergency surgery and things weren’t looking good, I, again had to remember to breathe. These two very different experiences show that in a sudden instance everything can change. That’s the thing with the unexpected—a circumstance can change so fast, we don’t see the event coming and we have absolutely no control over it.

How to Feel in Charge of a Challenging Situation

Once we have our breathing in check, we have a choice to continue to focus on what is in our control or continue to focus on everything that is out of our control. Fear tells us to focus on what is not in our control because then we stay stuck and paralyzed, which is what fear wants. If we focus on what is in our control, we can cope better or refocus on what is right in front of us.

Sometimes the only thing in our control in a given moment is our ability to breathe. 

Keep in mind that you are a strong person. Each of us is stronger than we believe. As I have said before, we have all survived our worst days so far and we will survive this unexpected change too. Sometimes the sudden change puts us in the direction we were really meant to be going. I said in my blog about life changing moments, the one direction we think we should go is not always the direction we should be headed. In our life changing moments, we have to stop and learn the gift or lesson that is right in front of us. 

Another important step to remember when we start breathing again, is to identify who can help us, support us and listen to us through this unexpected event. Finding and accessing your support system helps pull you through your challenges. In these moments you remember that you are not alone, even when it really feels like you are alone.  I have to remind myself of this sometimes and I also have to remind myself that it is OK to ask for help. We are not meant to live in this world to do everything on our own. When we need help, we ask for it. 

Once we have refocused, caught our breath and asked for help if we need it, then we have the tools to work through our unexpected event, change or moment. I know it might seem simple and when we are not in the moment, it is that simple. However, when a sudden change happens it can knock us off our feet and we might feel lost or overtaken by fear.

You will get through this unexpected moment one breath at a time and one step at a time.

Lastly, give yourself the gift of self love and positive self talk. Tell yourself, “You can do this!” If you have your own words for a good pep talk, put them work. The important thing is that you get back up after the unexpected happens.
Here are the steps:

  1. Breathe, Breathe, Breathe.
  2. Focus on what is in your control.
  3. Activate your Support System—who ya gonna call?
  4. Ask for help.
  5. Assess which tools are in place to help you through.
  6. Offer yourself SELF-LOVE and POSITIVE SELF-TALK.

I hope this blog helps you on your journey of life and when those unexpected moments hit.