Four Tips for Navigating Life’s Transitions

Author: Rachel Jones, LMFT

We imagine major life transitions long before they come to fruition. While these changes are often exciting and long anticipated, in the throes of a major transition, life can feel chaotic, leaving you struggling with a newfound identity. Transitions are also often a time when families find themselves in conflict while each member works to adjust to the new normal. To help navigate the inevitable stress that comes with a life transition, here are four tips to keep in mind during life’s changing seasons.

  1. Maintain Flexible Expectations: As mentioned above, we anticipate major life transitions long before they happen. Cue the image of a little girl playing in a wedding dress, already picturing her wedding day. Years of dress rehearsing can put a lot of pressure for that season to look a certain way. Giving yourself flexible expectations creates room to find joy in the ups and downs that come with preparation, rather than comparing to a fixed idea of exactly how the transition “should” look. In the age of social media, people often find themselves with unrealistic expectations and lose the opportunity to appreciate the life that they are living. By working to be flexible in your expectations, you may find that you are able to navigate the transition in a healthier, more meaningful, and joy-filled way.
  2. Allow Space for Conflicting Emotions: In addition to expectations of what these events will look like, we also anticipate what they will feel like. It is important to give yourself and your family members grace by allowing space for conflicting emotions. You are allowed to be excited, scared, overwhelmed, and happy all at once. First time parents know this all too well. They may feel pressure to only feel thankful about what a blessing their new addition is to the family, but they are also often faced with feelings of inadequacy and fear.  When we allow ourselves the space to experience conflicting emotions, we are also able to give others that same permission to feel what they feel.
  3. Utilize Support: No matter how long we have to prepare for a transition, it is important to have support, which may be outside of your family since they may also be facing conflicting emotions. It can be helpful to process with an individual not directly involved. Options may include friends who are a couple steps ahead in their transitions, church family, or even extended family.  It is also a common time people find support in a counseling setting to process the season of change.
  4. Find Stabilizers: Major life transitions can cause a shift in identity, making your life feel foreign and unsteady. Comfort can often be found in stabilizers, which are activities or routines that do not change despite the transition at hand. For example, many newly retired adults struggle with their identity as their routine and rhythm of life change. A stabilizer can be as simple as watching the sunset, or as specific as hosting a game night with neighbors. Stabilizers are grounding and provide something safe and familiar.

Transitions are inevitable; and while they can be scary and difficult, they also bring new experiences that help enrich our lives and give an opportunity to build closer connections with ourselves and those around us.

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