Learning how to deal when things are changing and life throws you a curveball
Life is filled with transitions - some we look forward to, while others can cause a wave of fear and challenging emotions. Big life changes, such as getting married or going to college, often present exciting opportunities and open new doors. On the other hand, moving away from home or dealing with health issues can be much more difficult and overwhelming to process which can affect our mental health.
Every life transition comes with its own set of stressors and potential positive changes; but whatever direction your life journey takes you in the future, it's important to recognize that change is an inevitable part of life. In this blog post we will explore strategies for managing major life transitions and give you some tools to confidently approach them.
What is the problem with life transitions? Trying to make sense of what to do next.
Many people ask why is change so hard? When we experience significant changes that disrupt our daily life, what we know as "normal" is often uprooted and it can cause us to feel lost and not sure how to deal with a major life stress.
Many times when a person facing life transitions tries to use their normal coping mechanisms that have work in the past and they'll notice that they may be less effective since life looks different than it use to. We also usually feel an increased amount of stress which is often a normal part of change.
Change or life transitions themselves aren't necessarily a "problem" however it is the emotions and challenges that arise which make many people feel uncomfortable. Life transitions can at at times affect our mental health and make us feel depressed or anxious mood. We find ourselves dealing not just with the change, but the uncomfortable emotions that came along too.
We'll explain a few tips to help you navigate this next chapter in life so you can feel less lost, more grounded, self doubt less, and confident to handle what life's thrown at you.
Let's go over a few examples of life transitions
Below are a few examples of personal transitions for you to better recognize what some of these changes may look like in your own life.
Moving to a new city
Starting a new job
Grief/loss of a loved one
Empty Nest Syndrome
Becoming a new parent
Challenges of middle age
Transitioning to adulthood
Ending a relationship
Transitioning to retirement
Illness / significant loss
Adjusting to a new lifestyle after a life transition
Adjusting to a new lifestyle after a life transition can be an especially difficult time and sometimes can cause overwhelming stress. Whether it's losing a loved one, moving away from home, or even starting college, sudden changes can prove difficult and trying to adjust can take patience and kindness towards ourselves.
It is important to remember that adjusting to new circumstances can take time and that it is ok if we need some extra support during this period. It helps to focus on self-care, even if that just means taking some extra time for yourself each day or speaking with friends or family about the changes you are going through.
Life's about change and big change often means big stress
Let's be honest, most people don't sign up for situations that uproot their lives and cause a sense of anxiety, stress, and loss. Change is HARD, even when you've intentionally decided to make a life transition such as starting a family or moving to a new community. As a result life transitions can be mentally and emotionally taxing.
Facing different life chapters can cause a range of emotions and it's important to acknowledge this experience and allow yourself to process. It's normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious or even experience grief when facing potential change.
If you find yourself in this situation, try to acknowledge your feelings and accept them without judgment. Amongst all the chaos potential changes that life transitions bring, it is important to remember that your new lifestyle life goals may take some time to get used to.
6 practical tips to coping with life changes and transitions
While some life transitions are welcome or slightly disruptive, the change can also bring up feelings of loss or grief which can change one's whole outlook on life. The experience looks different for each individual and there is no right or wrong way to cope with these especially difficult changes.
1. Recognize that each person deals with change differently.
Many people think they know how they "should" be feeling to dealing with a big change, but the truth of the matter is that each person has their own set of needs and personal circumstances. It's important to move away from "shoulding" on yourself and recognize that your transition and process may look different than what other's have gone through.
2. Give yourself the time and space to process your experience
How one deals with change will vary from person to person, but there are some aspects that are more universal. As time passes it often allows us to gain a different perspective of the life transition rather than when we're really the muck of it. Giving yourself an appropriate amount of time to process what you've gone through without forcing yourself to feel or act in a certain way, can help you move through this difficulty moment.
3. Have realistic expectations about change
Many people assume that they will be able to handle the change successfully, which definitely might be true, however we often forget to take into account some realities of the situation. For example, if you move away from your hometown far away from family members and your support system, it is probably not realistic that your new community will feel like "home" after a short period of time. As a result, it is important to have realistic expectations about how long we might be adjusting to our new reality.
4. Reach out to friends and family
Every once in a while, life throws us curveballs and those can be incredibly hard to deal with on our own. Whatever it may be, such as the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or an empty nest at home when your kids are off to college - reaching out for support is so important. No person should have to face any difficult transition alone; not just for practical reasons but for emotional and social support, too. When all around you things are changing (like pregnancy and after birth, retirement, or the start of a new career,) having a support system of close family and friends by your side can help you through any trying situation. It's easy to try to be independent and go it alone but support from our friends and family can greatly benefit our well-being.
5. Do things that bring your joy
Transitions in life can often be difficult, which is why it is important to reconnect with activities that bring us a vitality and joy. One strategy to positively impacts our mental health is to find interesting and engaging hobbies or activities that bring joy and fulfillment.
Activities such as journaling, gardening, writing, learning an instrument, or taking up a new sport are all great ways to provide focus and direction during these times. Hobbies allow us to spend time doing things we enjoy and can work to deepen relationships with ourselves and others, and may even open up unexpected avenues for personal growth by meeting new people during these transitions.
6. Practice self compassion
If a friend comes to you who recently lost a loved one or was undergoing treatment for a serious illness, what would you tell them? You probably wouldn't use language telling them to "deal with it" or that things aren't that bad, or that they should be grateful for this opportunity. You probably would be supportive, listen to them, and validate the difficulty of the situation. It is important to recognize that we can also do this for ourselves and practice self compassion. We can use kind and compassionate language when we're talking to ourselves, which can greatly benefit our mental health as we're dealing with a difficult situation.
7. Connect with professional support
Though there are many things you can do to cope with change, joining a support group or seeking professional therapy can help you explore coping strategies and develop skills to not only accept your change, but also learn how to rediscover yourself and life. Research by Speedlin et. al explains how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can be helpful when navigating feelings of loss and grief. In extreme cases people feel so overwhelmed and lost that they may even engage in reckless or dangerous behavior, which require immediate attention of professionals or medical support.
Life transitions counseling can help you if you're coping with adjustment disorder which may be impacting your mental health. A therapist who specializes in life transitions can help you reconnect to your authentic self and realign your life with what's most important to you.
Feel like too many changes at once? You're not alone.
Many changes in our life occur suddenly and adjusting to life transitions is never easy, but by managing the associated emotions and learning new strategies daily habits for dealing with life changes, you can move forward through each transition successfully.
You don’t have to journey through these times alone; reaching out for support will help significantly. Make sure to give yourself some time to adjust and accept aspects of your new reality and practice the tips mentions above to help you regain your balance in your life. There may be challenging moments along the way, but always remember that no matter what kind of life transition you’re going through; you will eventually emerge stronger and more resilient on the other side.
Reach out for support to deal with a big change
If you are experiencing a life transition or adjustment disorder, you may benefit from developing coping skills to better manage or seek to accept your new normal, know that there are professionals who specialize in working with people who are experiencing challenges specific to transitions. Learn more about Life Transitions Therapy in San Jose, CA Puerto Rico and contact Living Openhearted Therapy if you're interested in getting support.
***The ideas, concepts, and opinions expressed in all Living Openhearted Therapy and Wellness posts are intended to be used for educational purposes only. The author and publisher are not rendering medical advice of any kind, nor are intended to replace medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, condition, illness, or injury. Authors and publisher claim no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or damage as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material.