Life is a constant flow of change and transition. It’s an inescapable truth that everyone will experience sooner or later.
No matter how happy we are or how much we want to stay in a particular place, life will eventually guide us in another direction.
That guidance may be as gentle as a breeze causing a leaf to dance on the wind – or it may be a hurricane that devastates everything in its path.
The degree of difficulty you’ll face with life transitions will come down to how you approach them and how well you manage your emotions.
You can save yourself so much pain and turmoil if you can accept the life transitions that come as inevitable and swim with the current instead of against it. They may still be scary, painful, or difficult. There’s really no getting around that, especially if you are happy with your current situation.
But what you can do is prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to deal with life transitions as they come.
What are life transitions?
It’s helpful to understand what we are looking at as a life transition. A transition will be any distinct change in the direction of your life; a time when things become different for you. There are different transitions, ranging from societal, to personal, to biological, to unexpected.
Societal transitions include things like legally becoming an adult, entering the workforce, entering middle age, and entering your senior years. There are different standards and expectations that a collective society expects from people.
People will find it strange if you’re an adult and not working or training to get a job. People will also find it strange if you’re a senior citizen who lives on the beach to surf. Those expectations don’t mean that you need to abide by them, though. It’s your life, and you get to decide how to live it.
Personal life transitions are a direct impact on you and your immediate world. This would include going to college, starting a new relationship, ending a relationship, landing a new job, maturing, or realizing that you want something different out of your life.
Moving house tends to be a significant marker for personal life transitions. People often organize their memories based on where they live and when they moved.
Sometimes we experience a problem with our body that makes it difficult to conduct our lives as we expected. Biological transitions may include things like the effects of aging, developing a disease, healing from a disease, or injuries.
A chronic illness can force a completely different, unexpected life on a person. An injury, illness, or aging may make it impossible for that person to live their life at full capacity.
Tragedies happen. People die. Traumatic events can blindside us out of nowhere. These extreme, unexpected events can shove us onto a new path whether we like it or not. Still, we must deal with them whether we want to or not.
How do I cope with life transitions?
Whether you are going through a major life transition right now, or you are about to go through one, here are some ways you can deal with the change.
1. Allow yourself to feel your emotions.
We’re listing this at the number one spot for a reason. There is a lot of advice out there about trying to look for silver-linings, accepting things as they are, and soldiering on through the hard times.
And you know what? It’s not bad advice. In fact, we’re going to give you some of the same in just a few paragraphs. Sometimes, just surviving with the stubborn belief that you will find a way to work things out is the only way to get through a thing.
But there is something essential to be said about allowing yourself to feel your emotions.
It is normal to feel sad, angry, depressed, hopeless, or any other number of negative emotions because of a significant change in your life.
It’s scary facing the unknown! And it’s okay for you to feel whatever it is you may be feeling about the situation. Suppressing it is not healthy for your overall mental health.
However, dwelling in those emotions is not healthy either. Dwelling and ruminating on the negative emotions can keep you locked in place while everything else is trying to move around you.
It keeps you from making important decisions or taking actions that can help lessen the impact of what you’re experiencing.
And not making a decision is still making a decision – you’re deciding to let fate or people that may not have your best interests in mind make the decision for you.
Feel your emotions, take time to mourn, and then get back to working on making the transition as smooth as it can be.
2. Be an active participant in your life’s transitions.
We may not always choose what we experience in this life, but we do have a choice on what we do about it.
Don’t let fate or other people determine your path if you can guide it.
This is an easier thing to do when you can get a glimpse of what’s ahead of you. Maybe you want to have a healthy, functional life as you get older. Well, then it helps to build a healthier lifestyle, eating habits, and exercise routine now so you can build a solid foundation for your future.
It’ll be much easier for you to accept aging if you’re not constantly battling against the poor lifestyle choices you made when you were younger.
Perhaps you don’t feel secure in your employment. Looking for new training, schooling, or a better job situation can provide peace of mind and help make your transition predictable, rather than just getting laid off unexpectedly.
You can’t plan for every eventuality, and you can’t foresee every obstacle on your path, but you always have some say in the outcome of a transition, so make sure you seize that power.
3. Embrace transitions as a challenge, not an end.
We’ve established that transitions are going to happen whether we like it or not. Is there any way that we can view these transitions with some form of acceptance or even positivity?
One way you can do this is by looking at your transitions as challenges to overcome.
That doesn’t require you to look for silver-linings in potentially tragic circumstances. Sometimes a transition will be heartbreaking, and there will be nothing positive about it. That’s okay. It happens, and it’s normal.
What can you learn from the transition? How can you use this situation to better develop yourself or the way you approach life? Is there something you can do to alleviate the pain and stress of the situation?
Just to reiterate our first point: you don’t have to suppress your emotions in order to ‘get through’ difficult times. You can use your emotions to help steer your course during and after the transition.
4. Get support.
Where a transition is challenging and you are struggling either practically or with the mental health aspects of it, look to those around you for help.
If you have family or friends who might be able to somehow help ease the burden on you for a little while, ask if they’d be able to. At least until you get yourself sorted.
Let’s say you have your first child and, like most parents, you are finding the sleepless nights a challenge. Are there grandparents or aunts and uncles who might be able to take your little one for a walk for an hour or so during the day so that you can take a nap?
Some life transitions revolve around taking a new direction and figuring out what you want from life. In these cases, a life coach might be able to guide you through this part of your journey.
In other cases, it might be beneficial to seek out the care of a mental health professional to provide you with practical coping skills to help get you through the challenges you face
Then there are support groups. It might help to be a part of and contribute to a support group where other people who understand the pain of your transition gather. Not only is it reassuring to know that you are not alone, but some participants will be further along in their journey and will be able to offer advice and guidance that can really help.
5. Look for the benefits of change.
Whilst tragic life transitions might have little in the way of benefits, most other transitions will.
Accepting change and navigating your way through it can pay great dividends for your mental and emotional health. Making it through these challenging situations can help improve your mental health as you find healthier ways to deal with the stress.
You will undoubtedly learn new things about yourself, uncover new avenues for your life, and may discover things that you love about your new situation.
The transition may not feel good, and it may remain that way for a while, but it may eventually end up being more rewarding than you can imagine. Sometimes you just have to be willing to see the good in the situation.
6. Reflect on previous transitions.
Taking some time to remember the previous transitions you’ve had in your life can help make a present transition more comfortable to bear.
Have you had other heartbreaks? Times in your life where you didn’t have a choice but to transition?
How did you navigate those situations? What good came of it? What bad can you maybe avoid with this transition? What did you learn from the situation that can help you deal with your present situation?
Maybe you’ve been laid off from a job in the past and it had a negative impact on your mental health. But, after a time, you found that going for a daily walk or jog put you in a better head space. If that situation presents itself again, start going for that walk or jog on day one of your redundancy to lessen the impact on your mental health this time.
Or if you find yourself in an equally difficult situation, that daily exercise can still have the same beneficial effects.
Know that you can face these uncertainties and come through them on the other side. You might be a little banged up, but you’ll get through it.
Change is just part of life. Accept it for what it is when you can, and it will make your path all that much easier.
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