Celebrate with me 291 Newsletters over 28 years!: Its been great fun! but now it's time to move onto other community and educational endeavours. Thanks so much to the many who have contributed their ideas and support. Read more »




Tips to help you cope with unexpected change

We can’t plan for everything in life.

Suddenly the lights can just change on us

A bit like being in a boat, fishing, minding our own business when out of the blue comes a wave that just flicks us out of our comfort zone and into the sea.

Our first reaction, as we come up sputtering for air might be:


i.e. “She’ll be right- I can still see my boat” or “Those people over there in that rubber dingy will help me out”

This doesn’t happen as quickly as we might have hoped, help passes us by, so next comes:


i.e. We start gulping in saltwater and air, we thrash around yelling “Help“; “This isn’t fair”; “Come back!”

We use up lots of energy, floundering around until exhaustion finally sets in.

Eventually we realize that we are battered but mostly still here, we start treading water then we maybe lie on our back for a bit and try to float.  This rock bottom feeling eventually leads to:


i.e. We start to notice land out of the corner of our eye, we remember we can swim. This giving up on our stalemate, getting no where fast state and reaching out towards recovery is:

Self -actualization

i.e.The awareness that we do have other life skills to keep us going and the hope that there might be calmer times ahead, could be just enough to motivate us to stretch out and reach land.

Searching for meaning

i.e. We arrive exhausted on the beach and marvel that we have survived at all.


i.e. This stage comes later, after we have dried off and reflected on all that has happened. Maybe we resolve to improve our swimming skills and next time wear a life jacket but most of all we are grateful we have made it through this experience to dry land at last.

In recent years, many New Zealanders have been through “rocky boat” situations Eg. earthquakes; terror attacks; Covid-19; loss of savings, jobs, businesses and loved ones. Little wonder that many people find difficulty sleeping, may feel depressed, anxious and unsure of where “dry land” is any more.
Although unexpected change can be painful it often also comes with unexpected benefits:

  • As we transition from one experience to another we learn to be better swimmers, becoming more resourceful and quicker at adapting to new circumstances.
  • In time the troughs between waves get shorter, the sea gets shallower as we become more practiced at coping with these changes.
  • Also, we become better at predicting the weather, building bridges across the void from sea to land by noticing the changing conditions around us, being prepared, having our rescue kit ready and developing our B plans.
  • We have the opportunity to also become better crew. Not everyone can adapt quickly but through our own efforts to “stay afloat” we are more able and prepared to reach out and to help others to shore.

What has all this to do with nutrition?

Eating well gives us the strength to swim against the tide when we have to.

It also helps to keep our body free of some diseases that we can mostly control ourselves such as obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease etc. So as to maintain our own best level of fitness for when we most need it.

Eating well also provides nutrients that help our brain to think through strategies, that helps our memory, concentration, reaction times, judgement and decision making skills.

This story is in no way intended to minimize the suffering that many are feeling right now with the pressures of Covid-19 and life change, but rather to serve as a reminder that each of us have skills we may have forgotten that we need to hone in order to stay afloat if not for ourselves, for others we love who rely on us.

If you would like to get “match fit” and to have more energy to cope with life change, do contact me for a nutritional assessment to find the quickest way to help you build strength.

For more motivating articles by Lea:

Unlock your potential with food
Our “attitude” is key to better health
Break free from procrastination
Accept responsibility for your own success
Find optimism for goal success
Building resilience
Mind the gaps


Bridges, W; Bridges S. Managing transition: Making the most of change.2009 https://www.amazon.com/Managing-Transitions-Making-Most-Change/dp/0738213802

Olson, A. The theory of self -actualization. Psychology Today Aug 13,2013.

Smith, K. The psychology of dealing with change : How to become resilient Psycom. Feb 21 2020.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


Leave a Reply

Also in Motivation View all »

Would you like to subscribe to our fantastic FREE monthly newsletter?

Each month we'll keep you up-to-date with the latest nutritional articles and healthy recipes from LeaStening.com. You are free to opt out at any time, but we think you'll enjoy what we've got in-store for you.

Plus as a bonus offer — subscribe today and receive FREE weight loss tips for two weeks! Learn how a number of foods, many one would consider 'healthy', may in fact be slowing your progress.


Yes please, it sounds great! (and it's FREE after all).



No thanks, I'm not interested (or I'm already a subscriber and really enjoying these fantastic newsletters!).