There you were, contentedly enjoying things just as they were, when *BAM!* – life dealt you a swift one from behind.

While sailing through the air thinking “WTF??” you realized that looking over your shoulder and trying to figure out what happened wasn’t going to save you from the ground rushing up at your breakable self. You flapped like mad for a bit and then, safely on firm ground but rattled to your core, you thought, “Well, {possibly another swear word}, that happened. So now what?”

Good question.

I’ve personally had many “So now what?” moments, and I bet you have too. Some can be truly scary: life-altering diagnoses, getting separated or divorced, losing a job, having a miscarriage, changing careers, learning that your child is suffering, a deadly pandemic. Some can be just as disorienting even if they’re positive, like the time I said yes to a marriage proposal from a man I’d known for only eight days, and who lived in another country.

Each time life gave me a swift kick, the world around me seemed to carry on as if nothing unusual had happened, but I was different. Inside, my history had been amended to include this new truth that I had to accept, whether I wanted to or not. I had to keep moving forward even if I would rather have turned back time.

It would be wonderful in those difficult moments to have magic powers, but if you don’t, here are some other things that can help:

1. Get Calm

None of us do our best thinking when we feel stressed or threatened or afraid. Take a deep breath, count to ten, exercise, get a good night’s sleep, get some distance – anything to help you move out of survival mode and calm your emotions.

2. Get Clear

You may want to try and clarify what has happened and why. The human mind likes answers. Sometimes this is possible but sometimes it isn’t – we can’t always know why an accident or an out-of-the-blue diagnosis happens. If you can learn the reasons, it may help you stop looking backwards and begin to move ahead.

  • What matters most to me right now? This will help you decide immediate next steps.
  • What matters most to me in general? This will help give you some big-picture perspective and to see that your current crisis, while urgent, is just part of what your life is about.

A few categories that can help as you’re thinking about your priorities include:

  • Relationships
  • Work/success/income
  • Happiness
  • Health (physical, emotional, spiritual)
  • Meaning and purpose

3. Get Confident

Your next step is to think of all the things that can help you cope and move forward, such as:

  • Your strengths and talents
  • Supportive relationships
  • Past successes
  • Financial, emotional, medical, spiritual and other resources

Reminding yourself of these assets will help you feel more empowered, more capable and less alone.

4. Get Cracking

Once you know what matters most and have identified all the assets you have to lean on, you are ready for action. Fly, little bird!

As you begin the next phase of your life, I recommend that you keep track of the things that go well and what you did to make those good things happen. This is like a gratitude journal on steroids and is one of the most empowering practices I’ve ever learned. If you’d like a template to do this yourself, download the free What Went Well and Why journal from my website. And if you’d ever like help thinking through any phase of this process, I am available for coaching as well.