Transitions are incredibly challenging and inevitable parts of life. Ready or not, time often propels us from one stage of life to the next. Sometimes transitions are anticipated and welcomed and other times they are unexpected and unwanted. No matter when transitions occur or what they look like, they are usually full of uncertainty and discomfort. We all gravitate toward the known, the understood, and the predictable because familiarity makes us feel safe and comfortable. Life transitions push us outside of our comfort zone, which create opportunities for personal growth. While most people like the idea of growth in theory, it can be scary and painful in practice. However, there are several strategies that can make life transitions feel more manageable and even rewarding.
Examples of life transitions
Starting high school
Adjusting to college
Starting or losing a job
Starting or ending a marriage
Buying and selling a home
Losing a loved one
How to manage life transitions:
Accept feelings of sadness, fear, and self-doubt: Sadness comes up during life transitions because they often involve a great deal of loss (e.g., loss of relationships, sense of self, feeling of belonging). It is OK to miss the life that you had before and allowing yourself to mourn it is an important step in moving forward. Fear and self-doubt are normal reactions to taking on new roles and responsibilities that come with transitions. Feelings of fear and self-doubt are just that—feelings. They can’t predict whether or not you will succeed. It is important to label these feelings as they arise and remind yourself that they are valid and normal.
Identify what you value and go after it: It is easy to feel somewhat lost and disoriented when undergoing a major life transition. It can be helpful to reflect on what matters to you and what you want out of life. Ask yourself how consistent your actions are with your values.
Allow yourself to make mistakes: Transitions can be threatening because doing something new leaves us vulnerable to making mistakes. Show yourself compassion when you make a misstep because you are navigating new demands and need experience and time to develop the appropriate skills to manage them. Remind yourself that you are human and that everyone experiences failures.
Seek social support: Life transitions can feel isolating at times because it may be harder to access your primary support system. You don’t have to be in it alone. Open up to others in your life whom you trust and invest time and energy in creating new relationships. Get involved in your community and seek out others with shared experiences.