Coping with Life Transitions
Sarah had always anticipated that she would move to another country to pursue her undergraduate studies. Yet when she actually made the move, she found it very difficult to adjust to her new life…
Jon had been working for the same company for almost 15 years; he worked harder than anyone else in the firm. One day his boss called him into his office and told him that he would have to let him go. Jon’s life was turned around 180 degrees in just seconds, and he found himself unable to cope…
Finally, Natalia had been looking forward to marrying Oscar for eight years, but three weeks before to the wedding, she found herself suddenly feeling anxious and unprepared to be a married woman. Between the three of them, Sarah, Jon and Natalia were finding it difficult to adjust to a significant change in their life.
It almost seems like change is the only constant in life. You are bound to experience a number of significant transitions in your life, each accompanied with their own challenges, forms of stress and uncomfortable feelings. This is true of both positive and negative transitions (like getting married or losing a job). So how do you remain resilient and survive these sometimes difficult and unpredictable times?
Get Support. Transitions can be difficult to manage on your own. Reaching out to others can help you better adapt to the change and move on. So it is extremely important that you make an effort to stay connected; this may include calling a close friend, keeping in touch with your family, talking to a counsellor, or attending a support group. Whatever the means may be, communicating your feelings with someone can be an enormous source of strength.
Challenge your Thoughts. We engage in conversations with ourselves on a daily basis, which allows us to make sense of problems and transitions that occur in our lives. It is common to tell ourselves: “I will never be able to cope with becoming a mother,” or “I don’t think I will ever be happy now that I am retired.” In circumstances like these, it is paramount that you challenge your negative thinking to turn those thoughts into more optimistic and functional ones. The idea is that by changing your thoughts about the situation, you alter the way you feel and behave. There are a few steps involved in making this happen:
- Identify your self-talk: Ask yourself direct questions about what your thoughts are about your change or transition. For instance, if you are currently unable to manage your recent transition into graduate school, then ask yourself “What I am telling myself about graduate school that is making this transition difficult for me?”
- Evaluate the self-talk: The next step is to assess how appropriate your self-talk is. In order to do this, find evidence that disputes your self-talk. For example, you can ask yourself: “have you been able to cope with a similar transition in the past?” or “what strengths do you have that indicates to you that you can survive this transition?”
- Restructure your self-talk: The final step is to develop a self-statement that is a more reasonable, accurate, and appropriate response to the transition. For instance, the more appropriate statement may be “graduate school is a bit scary and the transition may be difficult, but I was able to manage undergrad, and so with a little more planning and dedication, I can survive this as well.”
Look for opportunities for Growth. Whether a transition is a positive or a negative one, there is always an opportunity for growth. Examine the parts of yourself and of your life that you value and ask yourself how you incorporate these into your new life. For example, if you admire your hard work and dedication, ask yourself how you can use these to help you grow into the transition. Further, assess the areas of your life that you would like to make some changes to; perhaps you want to pick up a new hobby, make some new friends, or perhaps you would like to learn a new skill. Transitions are a wonderful opportunity to begin incorporating some of these desires.
Life is full of uncertainties; the one thing that is certain is change. While transitions can be demanding, you can use some of these tools to help you cope, which will help you regain a sense of control over your life.
Brammer, M. C. (1992). Coping with life transitions. International Journal for the Advancement of counselling, 1(15), 239-253. Retrieved from http://www.springer.com/psychology/psychotherapy+%26+counseling/journal/10447
How to cope with transition and change (n.d.). Retrieved from http://healthpsychology.org/how-to-cope-with-transition-and-change/
How to make the most of your life transitions (2013). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shannon-kellogg-psy-d/life-transitions-identity_b_3456314.html
Farah Premji, MSc., specializes in the areas of depression, anxiety, and self care, as well as many others. For more information on Farah and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.