You’re Happy and You Know It, but You’re Stressed

Happy and Stressed large

You’d choose a good life change over a bad one, anytime. A new job vs. a layoff? No contest.

But even good life changes, like a new job, come with their share of stress and anxiety. And like stress caused by bad news, you also need to manage the stress of positive life events for mental and physical well-being, says Beth Esposito, MS, LPCC-S, LSW, at Samaritan Behavioral Health.

Tips for Any Good Life Change

“Be aware that even when you experience a good change, you’ll have adjustments to make in your life,” she says. These adjustments come with a degree of stress. 

As an example, she offers that a military family separated by deployment has adjustments to make even when reuniting — and may feel some stress in the return to their old normal. “They got used to certain ways of doing things during the deployment,” she explains.

Feeling guilty for feeling stressed in a situation like this is normal, she says. “Just be aware of the change and the stress that comes from it.” And, she adds, act to control and minimize the stress. For instance:

  • Communicate: Share concerns and talk them through to avoid misconceptions and open the way to constructive solutions.
  • Develop coping skills: For whatever life change you encounter — good or bad — establish coping skills to relieve the stress and the negative impact it can have on your physical and mental health. Different coping skills work for different people, says Esposito. Know what works best for you. It could be going for a walk, putting your thoughts into writing, calling or meeting for coffee with a friend, or setting time to meditate or pray. 
  • Learn to say no: “Establish boundaries and be protective of your time and don’t be worried about saying ‘no.’” Esposito explains, “You need time for yourself and for self-care. Learn to say ‘no’ in a polite and respectful way.”
  • Manage your time: “You become stressed out when you put too much into your day.” Create a simple to-do list to help you stay on course.

Esposito offers specific advice for the following good life events:

You Got the Job!

As you celebrate landing a new position, you may also feel a twinge of uncertainty. 

In a new job, you face high expectations. You’re under pressure to prove yourself as you take on a new role and responsibilities — and get used to working with new people. What could possibly go wrong? 

You can raise your chance of things going right — and feeling less anxious — by entering your new workplace with a clear understanding of your new employer’s expectations. Esposito recommends asking your boss for a “carefully stated job description.” Ask questions, if you’re uncertain.

To ease the transition, she adds, “Give yourself a few days to get to know who is responsible for what and who do I relate with the most.”

Retirement Time

Even when retirement is your idea, it’s an adjustment that takes getting used to. And without structure and planning, retirement can leave a void in your life. 

To prevent that, Esposito recommends, “Fill your day with activities that bring you responses and satisfaction similar to what your work did. If you’re in a helping profession, such as a nurse or teacher, you’ll still get that feeling of satisfaction of helping someone (through volunteer roles). 

“If that feeling of satisfaction is suddenly gone, it can be difficult to adjust. Keep a sense of purpose.”

She adds, “Think, what are some things I love to do? It may be time to rekindle old hobbies or develop new ones.” 

“Be aware that even when you experience a good change, you’ll have adjustments to make in your life."

Welcoming Your Bundle of Joy

“When you have a new life you’re responsible for, that can be overwhelming,” Esposito says.

But don’t forget yourself in all the excitement and demands of parenthood. For your physical health and emotional well-being, you still need sleep. Good, nutritious food. And private time.

That means you need to lean on the support of family, friends and your partner. “Have someone in your life, so you can take a nap, or take a shower for just 10 minutes, or call your best friend Susie.”

“If you have a partner in your life, decide who is responsible for what role. Determine those things ahead of time to avoid an all-out fight…. ‘It’s your turn.’ ‘No, it’s your turn.’”  

Call on nearby relatives and friends to come over to watch your baby while you take care of errands or get a little R and R. And accept unsolicited offers of home-cooked meals and babysitting.

Finding a pediatrician you’re comfortable with — before your baby’s arrival — will also relieve some of your new mom stress. “Oftentimes, the baby’s health is the scary piece for a new mom or dad.”

If you work outside the home, Esposito says, “have child care lined up that’s good and safe – arranged well in advance before you return to work.”

Also before the end of your maternity leave, she adds, “schedule self-time away from the baby so you get used to that. Maybe half an hour to begin with, so it’s not so stressful when you actually have to be away from your baby for eight hours.”

Moving to a New House

Happy and Stressed small

Moving to a new home can be bittersweet. You’re excited about the new place, but you have many fond memories of your old home. And there’s all the work of packing and unpacking. 

Organization is the key to lessening the stress of a move, Esposito says. She suggests, “Pack up each room, one by one, in an organized fashion, and say goodbye to that room.” Of course, get rid of clutter first. No sense moving stuff you’ll end up throwing out at your new address.

Organized, room-by-room packing also simplifies unpacking on the other end of the move. 

And, if you can, give yourself time to move in by taking time off work. By all means, get help from family and friends.

Esposito adds that you’ll be at greater peace when you “make the new house your own. Make sure you’re putting your personal touches on it.” That could be planting flowers or shrubs or putting on a fresh coat of paint “in colors that you respond well to — that are comforting. If you don’t like the color red and there’s a big red wall, it will not feel good to you.”

Even playing your favorite music in the background as you settle in, can make you feel more at home, and less stressed, she adds.

Esposito-Beth

Beth Esposito, MS, LPCC-S, LSW

View Articles