Tips for Life Transitions
As spring gives way to the beginning of summer, this is a natural time (no pun intended) for transitions: the days are feeling longer, flowers are blooming, and school is out. Of course, sometimes transitions aren’t so planned or predictable as school letting out. Transitions can also often be unexpected, or they may feel like they have come too soon. Whether it’s something that brings grief or sadness, such as the passing of a loved one or the loss of a job, or it’s something to celebrate, such as buying a house, being promoted, or having a child, transitions are also, invariably, stressful.
Here are some simple tips to help find stability during times of transition:
Accept your emotions. Is it wrong to feel angry after losing a loved one? Is it okay to feel some dread about taking on the new responsibilities of a promotion? Many of my clients ask, “Is it normal to feel this way?” Well, there simply is no normal. Whatever you are feeling makes sense given what is currently happening, particularly in the context of your life history. Rather than judge yourself for not feeling the ‘right’ thing, allow yourself to feel whatever is true for you in the moment. Also, know that feelings can and do change, sometimes quickly and unpredictably and sometimes more slowly.
Reflect on what’s being lost. When we lose something dear to us, oftentimes we don’t want to focus on it because doing so may intensify all the negative emotions that we’d prefer not to feel. Even with positive change, we can experience feelings of loss. The birth of a child may be accompanied with fear of losing personal freedom or financial stability. However, by giving some attention to the significance of what we are losing, we can offer ourselves more compassion around whatever we may be feeling.
Identify what’s gained. This is easier when the transition is something we want: a new home might give more space or privacy, and a new job may provide extra income, feelings of accomplishment, or increased sense of purpose. This is more difficult when the change is unexpected or is experienced as a loss. However, even in these instances, transition can also bring opportunities. The death of a parent may give reason to reflect on the good times with other family, or it may allow you to grow closer to siblings. In another scenario, being laid off from a job may prompt you to reevaluate your career path.
Take note of what’s not changing. Rarely do transitions disrupt every aspect of our lives (though sometimes it can feel like it). Take time to notice what has not changed, what is still reliably present in your life. In addition, keeping routines or aspects of routines can also provide a stronger sense of stability during a tumultuous time of transition.
Connect with others. Finding a group of people who are willing to lend a compassionate ear will help you remain feeling connected, which can foster feelings of acceptance and safety. This can be particularly true with someone or a group of people who have also experienced something similar. Likewise, having gatherings for all those affected can also mark the change for the entire community. These gatherings may involve a ritual that helps to either foster understanding and acceptance for or celebrate the transition, such as a funeral or a graduation.
And, if you are feeling especially vulnerable and could use extra support during your transition, counselors can also help you work through some of the underlying patterns and subconscious beliefs that may be triggered by the transition.
If you would like additional support during a transition, feel free to contact me to discuss how counseling could benefit you.