Coping with Change: Surviving Life’s Transitions
Ironically, change can be one of the most consistent things in life. We have all experienced change or transitions in our lives, and it can be scary! It is natural to want to hold on to what is comfortable and familiar, but sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we are forced to develop and grow as individuals. Even life transitions that we know are for our own good can be challenging to deal with emotionally. Life transitions can be expected or unexpected, deliberate, or inevitable, welcomed or unwelcomed, abrupt or gradual. No matter what type of life transition is in your future, you can learn to navigate change in a healthy way that can not only allow you to get through some very challenging times, but to eventually thrive. Let’s consider some ways that can make the journey through change and transitions a little bit of an easier task.
When change is planned for, like getting married, having a baby, graduating or retirement, it can be easier to accept than the change in our lives that comes without warning. This type of change could be a sudden illness, a tragic car accident, or the loss of a loved one for example. It may be helpful to cope with transitions like these by accepting that much of what happens is out of our control. It is recommended to take control of what you can and try and let go of what you can’t. Additionally, it may be a natural instinct to hang on to ‘what was’ when faced with change, but this often will only prolong the transition period, which may cause more pain in the long term. Facing and accepting that your life is changing is difficult, but also an important first step.
Stop, and allow yourself to feel what is going on inside. Embracing emotions that don’t feel good isn’t easy, so set reasonable expectations and remember that feeling stressed during transitions is completely a common experience. Often, you will find you will feel differently about your transition from day to day (which is also perfectly normal) so just try and reflect and be where you are in the moment. Be gentle with yourself and allow for time to heal as you move through the transition.
Developing a routine as you navigate through a transition can be helpful to facilitate a sense of consistency. Perhaps consider creating a morning or evening routine by incorporating regular sleep and wake times, a daily walk, or setting day-to day intentions that feel good to you.
There are so many benefits to self-care, especially when your life is turned upside down. Although it may feel difficult to focus on things that bring you joy during a transition, it will likely help you release some pent-up stress. Remember that more isn’t always better, take breaks to rest your mind and slow down a little. Search for healthy and safe ways to cope that will help re-charge those batteries and provide you with the strength needed as you navigate through your transition.
Although making the effort to stay connected may not feel like a priority, social support can be critical during times of transition. Catching up with a friend or spending time with family can help your transition feel less lonely. Processing changes with other people and sounding out our ideas and decisions can be helpful, so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help. You can also seek support in your community or talk to a counsellor or other mental health professional about building resilience.
It is true that we can’t avoid change but we can embrace it, and sometimes even see our challenges as opportunities for growth.