How to cope with the crisis points in your life

Vernon Coleman

A friend of mine is in the middle of moving house. During the last few weeks I've had plenty of opportunities to see exactly why moving house is said to be one of the most stressful experiences in anyone's life - a real "crisis point"!

The main problem is that all the so-called "professionals" involved in the business of buying and selling houses seem determined to make everything as difficult as possible.

The lawyers take three weeks to do what any reasonably alert hamster could do in twenty minutes.

Estate agents write better fiction than Charles Dickens.

And the people fixing mortgages make second-hand car salesmen look kindly, generous and warm-hearted.

It isn't difficult to see why buying a new home is more than just a moving experience.

It's a major health hazard!

In any sensible world solicitors, estate agents and insurance brokers would have government health warnings stamped on their foreheads.

Everyone buying a new house should be accompanied by a medical team and constantly monitored for stress damage!

In practice, however, we all have to fend for ourselves.

And the result is that every year thousands of home buyers suffer from high blood pressure, headaches, stomach ulcers and sleepless nights.

Naturally, moving home isn't the only "crisis point" that is likely to threaten your health.

Here is how to deal with the stress produced during ten of the most common "crisis points".

1. Moving house
Much of the stress produced when moving house comes from the feeling of helplessness that affects us all in this situation.

The problem is made a thousand times worse by the fact that it is your home that is involved.

My first piece of advice is that you should not move house while there are other major, personal stresses in your life. So, for example, if you're starting a new job try to put off moving house for a few months. Commute to work for a while if necessary.

Second, you can cut down the unexpected problems by making full lists of everything that has got to be done. Prepare the whole move like a military operation and there will be far less risk of any unexpected surprises.

Third, don't forget that the people who cause you grief are working for you. The solicitor, the surveyor, the builder, the plumber, the removal man - they're all on your payroll. And since you're paying their wages you are entitled to know what is going on and to be kept fully informed.

So, for example, don't be afraid to ring up your solicitor every day if you don't hear from him.

2. Divorce
To some people divorce comes as a relief. For them the marriage may have been one long "crisis".

But for millions divorce is a devastating experience.

The dominant emotion is often a feeling of failure.

Partners who have been abandoned may feel "worthless" or "discarded".

So build up your self-respect and confidence.

Remind yourself that just because one relationship has failed that doesn't mean that you are incapable of a lasting partnership.

Remind yourself of your good qualities. Make a list of them. You'll probably be surprised - and cheered to see how much you've got going for you.

3. Bereavement
Losing someone you love must be sad. Don't try to hide your feelings. Don't be ashamed to cry or show your sorrow. Bottling things up won't help.

And nor will pills help. Drugs can smother your emotions temporarily. But mourning is healthy and necessary.

As you mourn try to keep hold of your happy memories. And remember that memories can never be taken away from you.

4. Retirement
Every year countless thousands of people who have retired become ill and die within weeks of attending their retirement party.


Because their lives lack purpose or meaning.

If you're planning to retire then decide how you want to spend the rest of your life. You have earned the chance to enjoy yourself. What do you want to do most with the years you've got left?

Start new hobbies, educate yourself, make new friends, travel abroad. Even if money is tight you'll be surprised at what you can do.

5. Unemployment
Being unemployed produces two types of problem.

First, there are the practical problems - a shortage of money.

Second, there are the mental problems - a feeling of being unwanted.

Try to tackle your problems head on. Make a list of all the things you'd like to do. Put the truly impossible on one side for now. Then look at what's left.

Maybe you could start a window cleaning business. Or a hedge trimming business. Find something that needs time and energy not capital. Then set yourself targets.

Your initial aims will have to be modest.

But don't abandon your dreams.

6. Getting married.
Learning to share your life with someone else is a stressful experience.

The only way to cope is to communicate.

Share your fears, your problems, your hopes, your aspirations. Talk to one another. Understand one another.

Don't bury fears, anxieties, doubts or niggles. If you do they'll eat away inside you and eventually surface to wreck your relationship.

7. Promotion at work.
It's the job you've dreamed of. But suddenly it all seems terrifying. And you're frightened that you won't be able to cope.

A physical or nervous breakdown is a common consequence.

Stay healthy by first remembering that you wouldn't have got the job if they hadn't thought you could cope.

And help yourself by reducing your other commitments. Make a list of all the pressure points in your life. Choose your priorities and minimise your exposure to stress to ensure that you'll succeed and survive.

8. Starting a new job.
Few things are as stressful as a fear of the unknown. Take the edge out of this crisis point by finding out as much as possible about the people you'll be working for and with. And find out whatever you can about the job you'll be doing.

Research and homework are the keys to survival.

9. Financial problems.
If you try to hide or run away from your problems then in the long run you'll suffer far more.

Your anxieties and guilts will build up and your health will suffer.

Face the problem square on now. Ask for independent, practical advice from social services or citizens advice bureaux. Plan your budget carefully with their help.

10. Personal injury or illness.
You can improve your chances of making a speedy, complete recovery by taking an active interest in your illness - and your health.

Find out as much as you can about your illness. And take a positive interest in your treatment.

By replacing a fear of the unknown with a determination to get well you will have done more than anyone to speed up your recovery rate.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2005