Five Ways to Cope with Life Transitions
Updated: Feb 8, 2020
As I take the steps towards building my full time private practice, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on life transitions. Certain periods in our lives - moving to a new city, welcoming a new baby to the family, moving in with a partner, or switching careers - can be fraught with stress, negative self-judgment, and a sense of uncertainty about what the future will hold. During these times, it can help to take steps that will ease some of the struggles that come with these challenging transitions. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
1. Take breaks and slow down - There can sometimes be a sense of having to rush through periods of change. If you are starting a new business, you may find yourself burning the midnight oil as you try to accomplish an endless list of tasks. If you are moving to a new town, you may find yourself feeling obligated to unpack and get things in order immediately. If this works for you and you find yourself feeling productive and energized, by all means keep doing what works for you. However, if you find yourself feeling burnt out, emotionally depleted, or physically drained, allow yourself the opportunity to take breaks or to slow down. Ask yourself, “what’s the worst thing that can happen if I take a short break?” Use these breaks as a way to regroup, re-energize, and return to your tasks with a fresh disposition and mindset.
2. Identify supports - Transition periods can often feel lonely and overwhelming. During these times, it can help to reach out to supports both near and far to ease the burden of a difficult transition. Identify people in your life who are validating and supportive, who can help with both physical tasks or are simply willing to lend a listening ear.
3. Practice self-compassion - Negative self-judgments can really go into overdrive during life transitions. These judgments may show up in statements such as “I really should have figured this out by now,” “I’m going to fail,” “I’m a bad mother,” “I have no business taking this risk; what do I know?” and a whole slew of other demeaning, self-blaming statements. Try to take note of these statements when you make them to yourself or others, and see how you can guide yourself towards more compassionate self-talk. If a friend were going through a similar struggle, what would you tell them? How can you look at your situation more kindly and remind yourself that you are doing the best you can within your current circumstances? Also take note of any expectations of perfection - ask yourself how you can allow for mistakes or missteps in order to create more flexibility for yourself to be human during times of change.
4. Remind yourself that this is temporary - It can sometimes feel like you will be caught in this difficult transition period forever. When we are struggling, we want to feel relief as quickly as possible. When we are going through an extensive period of transition, like adjusting to having a child or getting used to a new life in a new city, it may feel like we will never find some relief or get a break. Validate that you are going through a hard time and remind yourself that this season of life is temporary. At some point you WILL feel some relief, things will start to fall into place, and you will find your new groove.
5. Notice catastrophizing and fortune-telling statements - It can help to notice the way your thinking may be exacerbating an already difficult situation. It can be easy to catastrophize and mind-read during times of transition. Catastrophizing and fortune-telling may show up in statements like, “I’m going to get fired,” or “This is never going to get better.” In both these statements, an extreme worst case scenario is being predicted. These types of statements can add to the stress we already feel and can drive us to act on our fears and limit ourselves and the possibilities available to us. When you notice that you are catastrophizing or fortune telling, gently remind yourself that you cannot predict the future, however you CAN take control of your current circumstances. Take inventory of tasks or items you can take care of NOW and focus on handling those tasks. This can give you a sense of control and accomplishment, thus warding off catastrophic thinking.
I hope these tips offer some help if you are going through a challenging time or transition in your life right now. Remember to treat yourself gently and that with time, things will begin to even themselves out.