Have you ever heard the quote, “the only constant in life is change,” by Heraclitus? This idea can be very hard to swallow for people who like to plan and have everything organized. Many people want to know exactly what will happen, what twists and turns life will bring, and how to prepare themselves for any possible transition.
However, we often find that the future is not what we expect. We may plan extensively for what we think lies ahead but be utterly wrong in our vision. Like the ocean, life is always moving back and forth. We must learn to ride the waves instead of fighting against this mutable force.
Dealing with transitions in life can be challenging for people to do. Change can be scary and leave a lot of room for the unknown. Life transitions might be overwhelming and frightening initially, even though they may lead to some great things. Think of a time in your life when you experienced change that initially intimidated you.
You may have been working at a job that you hated. You were in a toxic work environment with managers who didn’t care about you, hostile co-workers, and work that was meaningless to you and your journey in life. You may have wanted to quit but were afraid of this life transition.
What will this change bring?
Will I be okay?
Will I figure it all out?
What happened when you actually decided to make that leap? Did you sink, or did you swim? Hopefully, you floated to the top and found that although the jump into the water of life can be scary, it can also be exhilarating.
Change can happen in your life and bring really amazing things you never expected. This new job may end up being closer to home, offering higher pay, fostering a healthy work environment, or aligning better with your morals/passions. This is why taking the jump is essential to do in the first place. No matter how your story ends, you at least owe it to yourself to try and see what happens. Life transitions can be intimidating, but the worst thing we can do in life is to stay stagnant in fear.
Different Life Transitions We Experience
Summer Ending, School Beginning
The summer can be a great time for people to recharge from the rest of the school year. Some kids may feel like summer is when they can take a break from school and finally have fun. They spend more time with their family, make memories with their friends in the sun, and relax a little from the constant tests and assignments.
For teens, summer can be a time when they start a summer job; through this new job, they can meet new people and save up money. This experience can be their first taste of working life and help them build responsibility and work ethic.
Regardless of their plans, people get into their own summer routine. Thinking about changing your routine when you return to school can feel dreadful. You may hate the early wake-ups, endless deadlines, and the overall stress that comes with being in school.
Alternatively, you may be someone who enjoys school and likes the work, but you may fear other things with this transition. You may be nervous about starting a new school, making new friends, or thinking about what this year will bring.
A significant transition is on the horizon if you are in your senior year or graduating. Thoughts of the future, college, and jobs fill your mind. You may fear moving on from high school and becoming a young adult in society.
Starting a New Job
As mentioned before, you may be in a toxic work environment. You deserve to work somewhere where people respect you and appreciate you for the work you do. You may have quit your job and started a new one hoping the transition will bring better things.
In another scenario, you may have just graduated college and are starting your first “adult job.” How exciting! Job transitions can be exciting but can also bring on some nerves.
What will my co-workers think of me?
Will my boss be nice?
Will I learn a lot?
What am I even doing with my life?
Entering and dealing with relationships can cause big transitions in people’s lives. For one, it can be your first relationship. You may have finally found someone you feel a connection with and want to explore further. Someone’s first relationship can bring a lot of “firsts:” a first date, first kiss, first experience falling in love, etc.
It can be intimidating to open yourself up to someone and be vulnerable with them. When you fall in love with someone, you give your heart to them and hope they will take care of it. Doing so involves a lot of trust; putting your trust in others can be a big adjustment for someone, especially if they are used to being single. Other transitions in relationships can include the first time you move in together or the first time you say, “I love you.”
The most significant transition you can probably make in a relationship is deciding to become engaged and married. The transition to marriage can bring a lot of changes to your relationship. It can open up the door to many ideas to discuss: like kids, buying a house, joint bank accounts, etc. Another transition that, unfortunately, may happen in a relationship is breaking up. When do you know it’s time to call it quits? It’s scary to make that call and can be stressful to deal with.
Having a Kid
Having a child is a major transition in your life. Becoming a parent is a very important decision and brings an abundance of responsibility. When you are in charge of another life, your world will shift. You will start making adjustments and learning how to be a caregiver. You may change in a lot of ways, physically and mentally. Someone who gets pregnant will undergo a lot of transitions, as their body is making room for that tiny human.
The “Should Be” Mindset
Sometimes, we get stuck thinking about how our life “should be.”
I should do ___ by this age
I should know ___ by ___
I should be married with kids by ___
The “should be” mindset is dangerous and could cause us to go into cycles of worry and regret. In times when you should be enjoying yourself, like when you are getting married or having kids, you may instead be plagued with “should be’s.”
I should be doing this as a parent. I should be getting married here. I should be having this many work accomplishments.
As stated before, sometimes we don’t go with the wave of life and resist the current instead of appreciating how life is naturally progressing. We try to control everything! Expectations are natural, but don’t let them stop you from living.
How to Cope During a Life Transition
Allow Yourself to Feel Your Emotions
Change can be scary, and that’s okay! Allow yourself to feel your emotions and identify what you are going through. You can explore your feelings through journaling. Journal using these prompts:
- How am I feeling?
- Why am I feeling this way?
- Did anything trigger me?
- Name three things you are grateful for that are constant in your life.
- What can I do that will make myself feel better?
- Who can I go to for support?
Change Your Way of Thinking About Change
Instead of viewing all transitions as dreadful, try thinking of them in a different light. Transitioning into a new period of your life can bring many exciting opportunities. You may:
- Learn something new
- Meet some really great people
- Develop new skills or interests
- Become more independent
- Find your passion
Even if the transition in your life is difficult, know that you are growing in the process. As Dolly Parton once said, “storms make trees take deeper roots.” This transition can teach you a lot about yourself, your strength, and who you are becoming. Sometimes we go through things in order to grow.
Drop the “Should Be” Mindset
Our expectations often keep us stuck and push peace further away from us since we have a locked idea of how things “should” be. Remind yourself that life can turn out in a million different ways. Your life is unfolding naturally and happening at its own pace and time.
Allow yourself to live in the present moment without worrying about what should have happened or should be happening. You will never miss out on something that was meant for you. Focusing on the “should be’s,” you might stop your progress rather than appreciating how far you’ve come.
Each transition in life is a new beginning. With new beginnings come times when we will mess up, make mistakes, or down-right fail. Be compassionate and gentle in these times. Remember to be patient on whatever journey you are on. No one starts as an expert; there will be times when you will not do well on a test, make your boss mad, or upset your partner.
Allow yourself to be kind in these moments and practice self-forgiveness. We all make mistakes, and that’s okay! Your mistakes don’t have to define you; use them as learning opportunities to do better next time around. Stop comparing yourself to others and instead compare yourself to the person you are each day—focus on becoming your highest, happiest, and healthiest self.
Take Care of Yourself
Make sure you care for yourself, physically and mentally, during a transitional period. Be in tune with your body and ask it what it needs. It may require a self-care night, a walk to clear your head, a friend to vent to on the phone, or just a really long nap. Honor your inner voice and make your needs a priority.
Your life may be changing, but you can still focus on the constant things you have in your life: friends, family, your interests/passions, etc. Make self-care a constant part of your life, as well!
Lean on Support
In transitional periods in our lives, it is critical to lean on our loved ones for support. You don’t have to face these times alone. For example, being a parent can take a village. Allow yourself to go to other people for support, guidance, or help. Please don’t feel bad for needing help; we all sometimes do; it doesn’t make you weak! Have compassion for yourself, as mentioned before, and do what is best for your physical and mental well-being.
You can also join groups of other people you can relate to. If you are a new student, try joining different sports teams, clubs, or activities to meet other kids. New parents can attend support groups that help them navigate these times together. People going through relationship issues might feel comforted talking to couples they know who are strong or have been together a while for advice.
Go to your friends and loved ones to vent, get comfort from, and receive any advice. Sometimes, just knowing you have someone who consistently has your back through these changing times can be all the comfort you need.
Therapy can help you with so many issues you may be facing. A therapist can help you navigate the waters of your life. You can talk to a therapist for a variety of reasons:
- Self-esteem building
- Stress relief
- Relationship issues
- Problems in school or at work
- Struggles with married life or parenthood
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help! You deserve to live a happier and healthier life that is stress-free and stable. Therapy can help you find ways to cope healthily and deal with transitions more effectively. You don’t have to struggle alone!