I’ve been through many life transitions and while some weren’t so bad, others were a struggle. At the time, I wasn’t sure how I’d make it through, but looking back, I’m grateful for those transitions. They’ve helped turn me into the person I am today.
That’s the thing with big transitions in life. I was terrified because I didn’t know what to expect. The last thing I was focused on was trying to get over it. It’s one of the most common issues all of us face, but these changes aren’t insurmountable obstacles. They’re just changes that you and I all have to go through to grow as people.
Why You Struggle With Life Transitions
I think we can all agree that major changes are like being blindsided by a bus doing 90 MPH. A change means you have to step outside your comfort zone. For instance, think about what it was like to go from school to job. You knew the change was coming, but you still weren’t 100% sure what to expect.
It’s that fear of the unknown that makes life transitions so difficult to handle. They seem to come out of nowhere and no one knows what’s on the other side. From something as simple as a promotion at work to something as heart breaking as the death of a loved one, it’s a challenge to go from certainty to uncertainty.
We all get used to our routines. That’s why many people stay in relationships they’re not completely happy with. They’d rather stick with what they know than risk the transition of being single again.
Transitions are a normal part of life. I know I don’t always enjoy them and sometimes I down right dread them, but I also know that I have to transition sometimes in order to make a positive change in my life. I know I never expected to suddenly be laid off, but it was actually a blessing that eventually led to me doing what I love today.
What You Feel Happens To Everyone
If you’re like me, your emotions run the gamut from excitement to anxiety when it comes to life transitions. You might be thrilled at the prospect of finally landing your dream job, but anxious about moving to new city for the job. It’s important to remember that all those feelings are normal.
I’ll let you in on a little secret – we all struggle with transition periods in our lives. Those people who seem to have it all together – they struggle too. They just hide it better. I know I actually made myself stress out more thinking I was stressing too much.
Take a look at The Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory chart and you’ll see that life transitions are filled with varying levels of stress. It’s not uncommon to feel major fluctuations in self-esteem, anxiety and periods of depression. You might even feel lost and uncertain of where to go next.
The emotional overload that comes with life transitions is difficult enough to deal with. Combining emotions with the transition makes it seem like you’re trying to climb Mt. Everest in your underwear. The thing to remember is transitions aren’t trying to break us. They’re trying to make us stronger and lead us down a new road in life. Personally, I’d love it if we had a little more control over when and how we got to these new roads.
Why Life Transitions Can Affect Your Health
The stress overload that comes with life transitions isn’t always kind to health. For instance, it’s a common saying that you have a “broken heart” after a breakup. But for some people, it’s more than a saying. The inability to cope after the breakup leads to physical health problems, such as high blood pressure.
Stress loves messing with your physical and mental health. While stress is unavoidable (trust me, I’ve tried), it’s crucial to try and work through it before it takes a severe toll on you. Some common side effects of stress include:
- Lack of energy
- Low immune system
- Dry mouth
- Physical aches
- Sudden pessimism
- Changes in appetite
- Skin problems
- Heart disease
While some of the more severe problems only occur with long-term stress, it’s kind of terrifying that stress can wreak so much havoc. All these physical and mental changes make life transitions even more difficult to handle.
Coping With Transitions And Moving On
I know first hand how difficult it is to try and deal with life transitions. Others might tell you to just get over it, but I know that doesn’t work. I had to learn to cope and battle my own personal demons with each transition. A few ways to manage the stress and make it to the other side of your transitions include:
- Try to find a positive side. I realize this might seem impossible, but finding just one positive thing gives you something to focus on besides your anxiety and fear.
- Stick to normal routines as much as possible. The more normal life seems, the easier it is to get used to something new.
- Give yourself time to deal. I often tried to just hurry through transitions, but those bottled up emotions tend to come back at the worst times. Take some time to fully think about whatever you’re going through and how you truly feel about it.
- Talk it out. It’s way too easy to get in your own head. I can’t tell you how many circles I’ve went in in my own head trying to talk to myself. It’s better to talk to someone you trust or a professional.
- Continue to take care of yourself. For major transitions, you might be tempted to do things that take away the pain and stress, such as drinking or overeating. Make a conscious decision to put your health first. Stress is difficult enough to deal with, but adding more problems to your life won’t help at all.
- Create a step by step plan. You can’t tackle a transition all at once. Sitting down and creating a step by step plan of how to get through things is a great way to take control over a situation that seems to be controlling you.
- Imagine the future. I had a hard time seeing beyond the present at first. All I could focus on was what I am going to do now. The best way to cope is to look beyond the present and see what your future could be. Think positive. This gives you a bright light at the end of the tunnel.
The most important thing to do is realize this happens to everyone. Odds are, someone you know has been through something similar. Talk to them. Remember, it’s also okay to talk to a professional that will help guide you through difficult transitions and find a better you on the other side.
My name is Jess Brighton, a Minneapolis based Life, Adversity and Reinvention Coach. Learn more about me and my coaching services by visiting www.jessicabrighton.com.
If you have a question about this or another topic email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your complimentary 30 minute strategy session.
Image: Avel Chuklanov