Major Life Events

Major life events can have a big impact an individual’s well-being. Looking for help and support during these times can be really important. Whether it’s the thrill of starting a new job, the joy of welcoming a child into the world, or the sorrow of losing a loved one, life is filled with moments that can be both uplifting and challenging. Speaking to and getting support from friends, family, or professionals can make a significant difference. Friends and family can provide both emotional and practical help. Additionally, seeking professional help, such as therapy or counselling, can help guide you through challenging times.

The journey of life and major events

Everyone will at some point in their life experience a significant life changing event. Life is full of ups and downs, so we have to expect at some point to put into a situation that will have an impact and maybe change the way we live our lives. These major life events can impact your life positively and negatively such as; giving birth, getting married or losing your job or the death of a loved one.

Whether these life events are good or bad they can impact your mental health which will impact you emotionally and possibly physically.

There has been studies carried out which conveyed ties between negative life events like trauma, abuse, depression and anxiety which are mental health conditions. Also, the studies show that these negative life events can lead to an increase in depressive symptoms which can form the development of a depressive disorder. Furthermore, major life events will also have a negative impact on your mental health such as; divorce or a serious illness which could lead to depression and anxiety.  

However, a positive life event can do the opposite, events such as marriage and the birth of a child can increase satisfaction in life which will positively impact your mental health.  

Mental health outcomes can also be a result of life experiences.  

Relationships with family members, friends and partners can affect your mental health. Studies have shown that the relationship between a parent and a child can affect your mental health as it can cause psychological distress if the relationship isn’t healthy. More life experiences which can affect you mentally is socio-economic realities as people from lower economic backgrounds tend to experience more negative life events due to having financial difficulties which can lead to mental health struggles from chronic stress.  

The impact of significant life events can vary on a persons coping mechanisms and how they react to situations and depending on the event. Some people might be more resilient to certain situations meaning it may not affect their mental health as much as others who could suffer from really bad from minor life events.  

A lot of negative life experiences such as violence, abuse and natural disasters can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder and can have long-term affects on your mental health.  

If you have all of a sudden been made redundant or been fired it can take a toll on your mental health as it can be difficult to feel positive about the future and can cause stress due to financial issues. As a result of job loss it can provoke feeling such as; anxiety, depression and sadness due to the uncertainty and no stability. Feeling secure and well provided is crucial for us to feel safe and being employed ensures those feelings and anything which undermines that is likely to make us feel worried and uncertain.  

Having a job also provides us with security, structure and satisfaction and without that it can lead to bad mental health as jobs can make us feel like we have a purpose and could feel lost without one.  

If you find yourself in unplanned unemployment, it is important to take time to digest the situation and take care of yourself. It’s important that you don’t take the loss of your job too personally and take time to make sure you are taking steps to be positive. Maintaining a good routine throughout the day and making sure you eat well and do some exercise, even if it’s just a walk, so that it gives you a sense of structure while you work through your next steps.

Sudden illness or injury can have a big emotional impact on you and your family and friends. It is not easy to come to terms with changes in your life. Many people often experience an intense period of anger, frustration, denial, maybe guilt or even depression.

Adjusting to and accepting change in your life can take time. Your rehabilitation journey is personal to you, which means that your emotional reaction to illness and trauma is also a personal one. Your personality, resilience, coping strategies and previous experiences all play a role in your emotional journey and your ability to adapt.

It is very normal at first to focus on what you used to be able to do before your injury or illness and what you can do now. You may be in a state of shock or denial about what has happened.

Everyone reacts to illness and injury in different ways. Talking about your experience to your family, or the professionals involved in your care, can support with moving forwards. It is important to find the right time for you. Sharing feelings can feel scary or even overwhelming, so it is very important that you feel safe and relaxed about sharing personal experiences.

Top tips

  • Accept and acknowledge your emotions – they are as important as any physical changes
  • Create a new daily routine – this is an important part of recovery.
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Take time for activities that you enjoy

Being diagnosed with a serious illness

After being diagnosed with a serious illness, you may find it very difficult to talk about what’s happening to you and how you feel. Many people can find it awkward and embarrassing (or uncomfortable and even painful) to talk about their illness with their family and friends. Talking to the nurses, doctors and other professionals can also be difficult.

Many serious illnesses can now be cured, and treatments have become easier to deal with. However, the moment you are told you have a serious illness is almost always a time of deep emotional crisis and distress. Most people who have been diagnosed would say that they have never faced a bigger and more frightening challenge in their life.

It is important to realise that there is no single ‘correct’ way to deal with a serious illness and everyone will have their own way. How you talk to people about your illness will depend very much on your own personality and how you usually talk to people around you.

When you first hear that you have a serious illness, however good the outlook may be, you can have very strong feelings of shock and disbelief which can lead to negative thinking. Most people feel this. You may feel numb and unable to take in what is said, or feel as though it is all happening to someone else.

Talking about your illness can help you to feel closer to the people who matter to you most and can help you to find ways to deal with the difficulties that an illness can cause.

Some people find that they don’t want to talk about their thoughts or feelings or about their illness and its treatment. They would rather just get on with life, and find that doing normal everyday things and not discussing being ill is the best way for them to cope with it.

If this is how you feel, then don’t feel that you have to talk about your illness. If other people want to talk and you are a person who does not wish to discuss thoughts or feelings, then you don’t have to. It is fine to say that actually you find that the best way for you to deal with your situation is to just get on with life and if you want to discuss it you will reach out.

Below is some information on the feelings and emotions you may experience:

Most people are not prepared at all for being told that they have a serious and maybe even, life-threatening illness, even if they already thought that they may have it. The moment of being told is still very traumatic.

There are many reasons for this feeling of shock. Some of the following may apply to you:

  • the fear that you may die
  • not knowing what to expect
  • the possibility of unpleasant treatment
  • the fear of being in pain
  • feeling useless (physically or emotionally)
  • the fear of losing control of some parts of your life
  • fear of being a burden to your family
  • the possibility of losing the ability to work and earn money
  • the worry about what other people will think of you

Each person’s reaction will be very individual, but being diagnosed with a serious illness can cause feelings of concern and fear that are shocking and deeply distressing.

For many there will be a feeling of disbelief and also a wish to shut out and deny the news and pretend that it is not happening to them. This feeling is known as denial and is a normal reaction to distressing or difficult situations. It helps people to deal with very threatening or overwhelming news when they first hear it. For many people it will help them to deal with their situation.

Sometimes, avoiding the reality of a situation can stop people from doing things that they need to do, like going for treatment or sorting out money problems. It can cause problems if family and friends need to discuss issues and the person doesn’t accept that they have a serious illness.

Denial can be a very useful way of handling distressing news. It only becomes harmful if it goes on for many weeks or months or makes it impossible for the person who is ill and the people around them to talk. If you feel that you are using denial (or if someone close to you points it out to you), don’t blame yourself or feel that you must hurry to overcome it.

You may find that the shock, disbelief and denial make it difficult for you to talk about your situation. All these are natural reactions to a diagnosis of a serious illness.

Other feelings may make you want to be alone and not talk. You may be unsure about how you will react when you talk to other people – you may be afraid that you will cry and not be able to stop. You may feel that you want to stay strong when you talk to people and that it is not good to cry.

When dealing with something as difficult as a serious illness, it is natural to need to cry and it is absolutely fine if you do. Your friends and family may also get upset and cry with you because they love and care for you. This can be very supportive – facing the situation together. Crying together can feel like a real release of feelings and can bring you closer together. It may be a relief to both of you.

We would all like to have control over our health, and our future. Being told that you have a serious illness can make you feel fear, panic, uncertainty and even despair, and you might feel that you have lost control of your life. A serious illness can take away our certainty that we know what is going to happen to us. This loss of control can feel both threatening and frightening.

Finding out about your illness and treatment for it can help to give you back some feeling of control and can help you to feel more confident about the future. You can ask your doctor or nurse to tell you about your illness and its treatment and give you guidance to more information, support and resources.

Some people find it helpful to keep a diary, where they can write down all their thoughts, feelings and frustrations. Some people also write down their feelings about any good or positive things that happen to them. Keeping a diary can help you to work through various problems. Some people find that it can give them back a sense of control and perspective and can help them to deal with emotions and difficult situations.

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness, which is a health condition that cannot be cured and that you’ll most likely die from, understandably can have a major impact on your mental health and wellbeing and also that of your family and friends.

Hearing that your illness cannot be cured can be a frightening experience. Most people will be unable to take everything in. If you’re alone in the consultation, ask if you can bring a member of your family or friend in with you so that they can hear, and even write down, everything the doctor has to say.

There’s no right or wrong way to feel when you have been given the news that you have a terminal illness.You might feel numb, and unable to take in the news, or the opposite, calm and accept that you are dying. As time passes, your feelings may change, it’s normal to feel some or all of the following emotions in no particular order:

  • acceptance
  • alone
  • anger
  • denial
  • fear
  • helplessness
  • isolated
  • numb
  • relief
  • resentment
  • sadness
  • shock

While you receive end of life and palliative care it can be important to try to continue your life as normally as you can. Simple things such as following a routine, connecting with family, eating well and being physically active where possible will help you feel more positive, enjoy each day and keep doing the things you enjoy for longer. Take it one day or week at a time to suit you.

It is important to look after yourself, stay connected with the people around you, and do things that provide meaning to your life. You can do some of these things on your own, but for others you may need the help of your family and friends, your doctor, the palliative care team and other healthcare professionals.

Talk with your family, close friends, doctor and your palliative care team about what they can do to help you to make the most of each day.

Having a creative outlet and sharing memories with friends and family can be very helpful.

Looking after your emotions and dealing with stress can help you maintain quality of life.

If you are able to, it’s good to eat a range of healthy foods, keep as active as possible, get some fresh air, and make good personal hygiene a part of your day-to-day routine. By taking care of yourself as best you can, you will feel more positive, have more self-confidence and lower your chances of getting any new illnesses or complications.

Depending on your illness, you may feel that eating foods that you enjoy (even if they are not the most healthy foods) is more important to you than eating well.

Maintaining a balance of rest and activity that works for you will help you enjoy good quality of life. You may need more sleep at certain times or it may suit you to have naps in the daytime.

It is up to you how you choose to spend your time. It makes sense to spend your days doing what is meaningful and important to you. This may involve sharing more time with family, finishing a project you have been working on, or getting back to nature. By setting personal goals you can continue to look towards the future.

Share your ideas with your family and friends so they can support you in achieving your goals. You may need help with things like transport and activity materials.

Doing what you enjoy is the best way to keep your spirits up and your mind active. If you already have a hobby or particular interest there is no reason to stop just because you are receiving palliative care.

Having a creative outlet can be very helpful in helping you to understand your feelings. Being creative is a great way to reduce stress, express your feelings and stay positive.

It does not matter whether you have always been creative or whether you are trying something for the first time.

Sharing memories with family and friends is a great way to spend quality time together, stay positive and reflect on your life. By sharing stories or looking through photos, you can think about your lives together, make new memories and enjoy a happy time.

Everyone has times where they feel a bit low or flat. When dealing with a terminal illness you might become concerned about what is happening or feel a sense of helplessness or even fear the unknown. This is very common and can lead to anxiety, depression and negative emotions like feeling sad or frustrated.

Talking things over can help you and your family and friends.

Knowing that you have a terminal illness leaves you living with uncertainty about your future and for those you will leave behind. You’ll probably have questions with no definite answers, such as:

  • how and when your body is going to change
  • the effect this will have on your independence and also your relationships
  • what will happen at work
  • exactly how much time you have left

You might feel that you are left with more questions than answers and not having all the answers will leave you not knowing what’s going to happen. This can make you feel overwhelmed, stressed and upset. It’s normal to feel like this, and it might be helpful to talk with others who are in a similar situation and hear how they have dealt with these feelings. Talk to your doctor or nurse about local support groups for people who are living with a life-limiting illness, or for people who have the same condition as you.

Some people feel helpless and that everything is out of control. Writing down worries and questions can help you decide what’s important to you and how to tackle it.

If you want, you can use what you’ve written to help you talk about things with your doctor, family, friends and carers.

Local and National Support

Rotherham Government can offer a range of support regarding unemployment and other career issues. They supply support for all ages and all situations.

To help residents to achieve their goals Rotherham Council created a new Employment Solutions team and used the Better Off Calculator from Policy in Practice.

Here you can find your local job centre offices in and around Rotherham.

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