Dealing With Unexpected Life Events

For most of us, we’re expected to be at work at a set time every week. Even then, often times we find ourselves doing more which requires us to spend extra time in the office or working from home off the clock. However, all of us are aware of a very common workplace mantra: keep your personal stuff at the door. As we know, it’s easier said than done.

Unfortunately, life happens. It happens when we wake up and hear some news that overnight a relative has passed away. It happens throughout the day when we have to leave work and rush down to the school because an issue transpired with our child. It happens when we get bad news at the doctor’s office, have to deal with end of romantic relationships that leave us heartbroken, or find ourselves in a deep financial hole that seems to be nearly impossible to climb out of any time in the foreseeable future. But when life happens, we still have to go to work, leaving those issues with us in the car. Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done.



In a recent global survey by Thomson Reuters on working women, 44% of participants across the 19 countries included in the study and 43% respondents in the US ranked work-life balance to be the single biggest challenge of having a successful career. Work-life balance was considered to be a bigger issue than pay equity, career opportunities, and managing a career with children among many other answers. And while we often associate work-life balance with women, it’s also an issue for men. Work-balance is also a very dynamic aspect of our lives. As things change, the balance needs to shift. This becomes all the more important, and difficult, when dealing with unexpected life events.

Still, there is a truth about unexpected life events: you have to expect them to happen. Things come up that interrupt our plans all the time. What makes them unexpected is that we don’t know what will happen and when it will occur. But you can prepare yourself to expect the unexpected through exercising some basic strategies in your daily life. Here’s how to start your preparation when life decides to through you for a loop.




Master the Management of What You Can Expect

While there are things that happen at random when life happens on life’s terms, there are some things in your life that are fixed. It doesn’t matter what happens before work, you know you still have to go, just like you know your daughter has dance practice on Saturday, and you need to be able to get a full 8 hours of sleep to be functional in the morning.

Knowing what you need to do is step one. You also need to be able to prioritize steps in order of importance and understand what is negotiable and non-negotiable for each. Additionally, you need to revisit doing this as a regular exercise as your priorities and negotiables change from time to time.


Check to See If You Need an Attitude Adjustment

There’s a saying I’m sure most people have heard which is “It’s not about what happens in life, it’s about how you deal with it." It’s extremely cliché, but it’s also very valuable advice. When faced with conflict, when things don’t go your way, when the outcomes of your life seem unfair, how do you generally deal with them?

Having a consistent attitude when dealing with life’s challenges is probably unlikely as various events will impact us differently. However, looking for the positive or seeking opportunity when faced with unfavorable situations is more of a character trait that is intentionally developed than a biological predisposition. Start to pay more attention to your reactions to little things that upset you and learn on how to deal with them better in order to shift your mindset for when something much bigger and disruptive to your life comes along.



Make Sure You Have a Strong Support System

The people around you can make or break your ability to deal with a significant change in your life. They can help you to manage your priorities and they can reinforce your attitude. Any parent knows having someone who can watch your kid when emergencies occur makes all the difference in the world. Having someone to emotionally lean on through difficult times can entirely change your ability to cope with it.

A strong support system comes from being able to have people in your corner in all aspects of your life.  This support system should include family, friends, and neighbors. Additionally, aim to cultivate strong professional relationships at work with your co-workers. Your colleagues will be able to assist you to the best of their ability in managing your work load and expectations when life occurs.



Dealing with life when we have work is an necessary evil and dealing with it OUTSIDE of work is something we almost always have to do. How we manage life on a regular basis can set us up for much greater success in dealing with major unexpected events. It’s important that we use some of the same strategies in handling both. The difference is those strategies become all the more important when something we don’t see coming happens suddenly. Therefore, it’s important we are mindful of our habits in dealing with day to day issues so that when unanticipated events happen we are more successful in handling it so it has a minimal impact on our work.


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