Life is full of transitions – beginning college, starting a new job, becoming a parent, getting married, getting divorced, and retiring are just a few of the most commonly experienced life changes. The fact is, whether changes are perceived as positive or negative, they can be stressful.
Here are 5 tips to help you survive life transitions:
1) Be mindful. While planning for the future has its place (choosing a college, planning a wedding, preparing for a newborn), focus on the present so that you don’t get caught up in worry about the future. Worrying about what may or may not come in the future will only add to the stress of the current moment. Similarly, don’t get caught up in the past; this will only cause you to miss out on the present, perhaps leaving you with feelings of regret. Use mindfulness to enjoy what this current life stage has to offer.
2) Self-reflect. Periods of change are great opportunities for self-reflection and growth. With most life transitions comes a change in identity – student to employee, single to married, child to parent, employee to retiree. Take this time to look inward and appreciate how the stage you're exiting as well as the stage you're entering has shaped you. To help with this, ask yourself: How has the stage you're exiting helped you grow as an individual? How has it prepared you for this next stage? What will this next stage of life offer you? If your life transition is a result of a choice, remind yourself of why you made the change. For example, say you quit your old job because it was chipping away at your self-respect (your boss treated you unfairly, you were underpaid); remind yourself that this new job offers greater opportunities and will allow you to maintain your self-respect.
3) Make comparisons. If you find yourself struggling with a life transition, it can be helpful to think of a time when you’ve successfully survived a transition in the past. For example, if you’re starting a new job, think of a time when you overcame a similar challenge, such as starting your first job in high school or beginning college. Making self-comparisons such as these allow you to draw upon your strengths and apply them to your current situation.
4) Make contributions. Contributing to others (for example, giving back to your community, a simple act of kindness, or helping a friend in need) can give you a sense of mastery, self-confidence, and energy to tackle your life transition. Contributions to others often strengthen your belief that you can successfully navigate and survive the curve balls that life throws at you.
5) Seek support. If you find yourself unable to manage the stress that comes with life transitions, reach out for support. Talk with supportive family or friends; it is likely they have been or are going through a similar situation. Knowing that you are not alone can be incredibly validating, which can be helpful in and of itself, and you may get more ideas or insights into how you can overcome your current challenge. Also, know that there are professional counselors and support groups out there who can help you process, mentally prepare, and see a new perspective on life transitions.
Need some more encouragement to help get you through life transitions? Below is a link to my "Wise Words" Pinterest board, a collection of my favorite therapeutic and inspirational quotes, many of which focus on change and mindfulness.
Other CFJ Counseling blog posts that may interest you:
- Feeling lost in life or like you don’t know yourself anymore? You may be acting against your values
- Are you chipping away at your self-respect?
- Two simple mindfulness exercises that I love
- Mindfulness: A path to happiness