‘Change is the only constant in life’. I believe all of us must have heard this sentence countless times in our lives thus far. However, even though change is constant, the form it takes, the resultant impact on us and how we emerge post-transitions and changes varies widely.
There are so many different types of transitions and changes we encounter in our life. Ranging from the universal transitions of going through different life stages: childhood, teenage years, adulthood, retirement and the resultant changes in roles, to individual event-related transitions like transitioning into a new job, new relationships, new accommodations, new habits and ways of being. No matter the context, every transition inherently involves a shake-up of your normal routine, a disruption to what you know and are familiar with, and with that brings that sense of instability. Even if it is a positive transition and change, the temporary instability is present nonetheless.
Different people respond and cope differently with transitions, some might resist vehemently while others might welcome excitedly, some might take a longer time to reclaim a sense of equilibrium while others settle into the new pace quickly. Requiring more time to adapt does not mean you are weak or rigid, or that there is something inherently inadequate within yourself. However, it also does not mean that there is no way to soften the impact or reduce your suffering during transitions. If you’re struggling in the midst of adjusting to and navigating a transition or change, I hope the following points help offer some direction and relief.
Acknowledge and validate your feelings
This is the most important step. Take some time to check in with yourself and label your emotional experience. This is not a luxury, it is a necessity. If you don’t know what’s happening internally, how can you hope to support yourself? As you take time to search within, you might find fear and anxiety as you look ahead at the unknown and uncertainty and self-doubt fills you. You might find sadness and pain looking back at the things you left behind. You might find anger at being forced to change. You might find joy and excitement, eager to explore what’s ahead. You might find a sense of peace and calm. Whatever you come in contact with, acknowledge and embrace them. They are valid. Even if others do not experience the same emotions you do in similar situations, that does not make them any less valid. Remember that it matters less the objective nature of the transition, but how it is perceived by you.
Anchor your intentions behind the transition or change
In the initial stages of the transition, amidst the uncertainty, we might crave for a sense of familiarity because we have been knocked off our usual course. Be mindful that regret and self-doubt might rear its head here, and ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ might reign in full force. Keep in mind that this is natural and therefore, you do not have to bring your entire decision into question. Take time to connect yourself to the reasons why you made the intentional choice to transition and change, the potential rewards of the current transition. Take time to anchor the peace and the resolve in your body before you make any major decisions.
Set aside space to grieve the losses you experienced
As you step into something new, you are inevitably leaving something behind. Be mindful and create space for grieving the losses you experienced. The innocence and carefree nature of childhood, the loss of a structured routine and meaningful work when you enter retirement, the previous relationship that brought you so much joy, the sense of competence and being recognized in your previous job, amongst many other possible losses. It might be baffling to some that even if the transition or change is for the ‘better’, there would still be a sense of loss. We are all creatures of habit, even if the situation we were in was a situation that we wanted to escape from, there might be a loss of familiar routine, a loss of a sense of control in the sense that you always knew what to expect. These are normal. Don’t let anyone tell you that because you’re moving to something better, no part of you should feel sad. Re-establish a sense of stability and routine Transitions and changes are destabilizing. When things feel chaotic, it is even more important to ensure that there is some form of stability in your life. Consider regular sleep times, regular meal times, regular leisure times, so that your body takes comfort in that anchoring familiarity, that there remains some sense of control when things can feel out of control. It is also important to make sure that you dedicate time to self-care, to engage in things or activities that bring you joy and comfort. When you weave that into your daily routine, a dedicated time of self-care, you’re protecting yourself from being bulldozed by changes around. There will definitely be days where you feel so tired that it feels like self-care is a luxury, but I encourage you to self-care nonetheless. It does not have to be something big that requires a lot of energy, perhaps sometimes it might just be that comforting hot bath, that soothing music, your favourite essential oil.
Reach out for support
Lastly, remember that you don’t have to go through these changes alone. Have a conversation with your loved ones, your friends about how things have changed and are changing for you. Ask them for support in this challenging period by telling them what you need to help you through. Perhaps you could also consider reaching out to a therapist to help journey with you through this period of transition and change.
It is my hope that no matter what you are going through, you eventually emerge stronger, more resilient and with a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in life.