Major changes

It can be difficult to adjust to changes in your life, even positive ones

Whether it’s something you’ve been expecting, or something that comes completely out of the blue, big changes can have a huge impact on your life. Even good changes can trigger distress or make it worse. Understanding the effects of change can help you adjust faster with less difficulty and upset.


Unexpected losses, events or challenging situations are part of all our lives, and can cause significant stress. A single stressful event or a series of ongoing events may trigger depression or anxiety at any point in life, even many years later.

‘Traumatic events’ are terrible, unexpected events like accidents, natural disasters, a sudden death or being attacked. These events can result in emotional and psychological trauma, and this can have an impact on all aspects of our wellbeing. Read more about trauma

There are all kinds of events that require you to make changes in your everyday life that aren’t necessarily traumatic, but still very challenging. Sometimes these events change how you see yourself. Some of these events that can trigger distress include:

  • illness, injury or developing a long term medical condition 
  • a job loss or new job
  • a relationship break-up
  • change in whānau (family) make-up (for example, a new baby, blended whānau, or the separation of parents)
  • a suicide attempt by a close friend or whānau member
  • the death of a close friend or whānau member
  • a change in living conditions. 

While you may not have control over the events themselves, you can control what you do about them. Ignoring them may only make things worse. 

The structured problem solving technique in our self-help section shows you an effective way to deal with challenging events.

Changes to your role in life

Even life changes that you’ve expected and planned for can be harder to adjust to than you expect. Changes in role, like becoming a parent or retiring, usually affect important areas of your life, such as:

  • where you live
  • how you define yourself
  • your goals in life
  • people’s expectations of you
  • your beliefs 
  • who you have around to support you.

The difficulty, challenges and conflict that come along with these life changes can contribute to depression and anxiety. 

Keep in mind that a major change for one person can affect the whole whānau. For example, having a baby (pēpi) doesn’t just involve new roles and responsibilities for the parents. It can also bring about changes for the whole whānau, including brothers and sisters, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. These changes require some adjustment by everyone. 

Find out more about some of the most challenging changes we go through below:

A new father

What next?

Once you understand what is contributing to the way you feel, you can learn what to do to start feeling better.

How to get better

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