A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.”
~ Nikki Giovanni
We are creatures of habit and many of us depend on routine to keep our lives feeling safe and orderly. When something happens to disrupt that routine, we can experience feelings of stress, overwhelm, and anxiety.
The experience of life transition is the internal psychological process of adapting to a new situation.
After working with hundreds of women over 10 years I have come to see that we'll have a number of life transitions at many points in our lives.
Most of my clients come to me because they are at the threshold of a big life change. One client is an only child and has recently lost her mother. As she lost her father many years ago, she now has no living immediate family. This is a huge life change for her and understandably, it is causing her a lot of adjustment and pain. She calls herself an 'adult orphan' and she's been pondering her future, including how she will survive in the world without her rock; who will be there for her? Who will catch her when she falls? These are the many questions we're exploring.
Another client has a sick family member and she is the only one who can care for them. She's had to quit her job and move back to her hometown in the country. She's been processing a lot of grief around losing her dream life in the city.
Not all life transitions are negative. A client was recently promoted to CEO of a small start-up. She's worked so hard for this role and intellectually she knows she deserves the promotion but the increased responsibility is causing her crippling anxiety. A strong social advocate, she also has a belief that she's betraying her colleagues in some way. How will she embrace this new opportunity while maintaining her strong values?
Life transitions can be challenging for most people including me.
Last June I transitioned from working part-time on my business to being fully self-employed. The transition was painful for me, filled with crippling self-doubt, financial insecurity, and a lack of self-confidence in my ability to make this change successful.
The situation was painful because I projected the very worst outcome possible. My mind told me that I would fail and would have to go back to full-time employment.
In the end, my worst fears did not materialise and my business is thriving and I'm the happiest and most fulfilled I've ever been.
I find that the hardest part about life transitions or change in general, is the fear of the unknown. Our brain is wired to seek safety, comfort, and familiarity. With the right recourses and tools in place, managing life transitions does not have to be daunting.
Coping With Life Transitions by Bruce Feiler
Reaction to change from life transitions often involves stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. I'm happy to say that there are many healthy ways of coping with that stress that will help ensure a smooth transition.
These are some helpful coping methods:
Acceptance. Feiler believes that a successful transition after a 'lifequake,' involves choosing to enter the process. It takes courage to express and accept any emotions that arise. In his research, Feiler found that many people feel fear, sadness, and shame in these instances. Yet transitions provide wonderful opportunities to rewrite your life story. Identify the emotions you’re struggling with to accept them and move on. A useful tool for doing so is to journal your thoughts and feelings.
Reframing. Regardless of the positive or negative nature of a transition, we can tend to expect the worst, seeing the stress caused as a threat rather than a challenge. Acknowledge that you may automatically react to any change negatively. Use 'self-talk' to make more positive statements about your situation.
Preparing. If you want to make a change, plan how you will react and adjust to it. Often it’s helpful to set shorter, specific, baby steps towards making the larger change. For instance, if you’re thinking of returning to school after a long absence, take a class to see how you’ll do.
Re-booting. Psychiatrist Dr. Srini Pillay, suggests engaging in 15-minute bursts of 'intelligent unfocus', such as a nap, structured daydreaming, or doodling. These breaks may help you think more clearly throughout the transition process. In general, 'self-timer, whether you relax, meditate, exercise, or get more sleep, eases stressful situations.
Comparing. Often life transitions involve reflecting on the past to some degree. Use that time to remember prior life transitions and how you coped with them. Remind yourself that others you know have been through similar transitions and consider how they handled their situations. What steps did they take to help or worsen their circumstances?
Getting support. Friends and family who’ve been there can encourage and strengthen you throughout a transition.
Keeping busy. Stay active, keeping your mind and activities focused on tasks that help with your transition, or that keep you constructively occupied.
A life transition can be the catalyst that forces you out of a toxic or unhealthy situation. I often say to my clients that if they do not make the change necessary for their growth or evolution, the universe will do that for them by ‘spitting’ them out of the situation which can be very painful.
No matter how much we try, we cannot avoid change or transitions. As the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, said “change is the only constant".
As we approach the end of 2022 it is helpful to take a pause to reflect before transitioning into the new year. Join me for a 90-minute live online workshop, Living a Courageous Life - A Reflection on 2022.
If you cannot join us, try my self-paced- version of this workshop. Details to join both are below.
Lots of hugs until next time.