7 Tips for Coping With Stressful Transitions in Life

7 Tips for Coping With Stressful Transitions in Life
Stressful transitions

“There is nothing permanent except change.” Heraclitus

Change is a universal constant – our world is built on it. Nature changes with the seasons, civilizations develop and grow with new discoveries and advancements, and human beings, biologically, are designed to change throughout their life. Change is fundamental to our existence, and yet, we often spend a considerable amount of time either avoiding it or stressing about it. 

April is Stress Awareness Month. It’s also a time when major changes are just around the corner: graduations will soon take place and the busy season for weddings is only weeks away. Other life transitions that may bring disruption or confusion are:

  • returning to in-person work environments
  • the birth of a child 
  • beginning a new school year 
  • moving to a new area 
  • changes in relationships break-ups or divorce
  • children growing up – empty nest 
  • retirement 

Whether change is good or bad, wanted or unwanted, planned or unplanned, it still can be stressful. So, in time for Stress Awareness Month – and every season of change – we’re sharing tips for coping with transitions in life.

Tips for Coping with Transitions:

  • Preparation is key. You can prepare both in your mind and in practice. First, understand that life transitions can be difficult and confusing, bringing a range of emotions from excitement to disappointment to fear. You can prepare your mind by journaling, writing down your feelings and thoughts. Then you can also plan practically, mapping out your transition as best you can. 

For instance, if you’re moving, there is a list of things you’ll have to do, from packing to hiring movers to changing addresses to turning off and setting up utilities. Putting a plan to paper can also help sort out what you actually need to do – while sorting your mind as well. 

There are always changes that you don’t expect, like the death of a loved one or the loss of a job, but once the change is set in motion, planning your next steps goes a long way toward coping with it.

  • Set small goals. Part of creating a transition plan should be setting small goals for yourself. Be realistic. Don’t set unattainable expectations for yourself or the process.

Establishing small goals not only helps the planning phase but grants personal rewards for every goal that you accomplish. Once you’ve conquered one objective you’ll know that you are capable – and that makes your next goal easier to accomplish.

  • Set a routine. Establishing routines can instill some consistency in the midst of change. Creating a morning and evening routine – with realistic expectations – can help reduce the stress of everything else that is in motion around you.
  • Practice self-care. Make sure you integrate a healthy, balanced diet and adequate sleep into your routine. Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress. You should, however, allow yourself to relax and take it easy. Make sure you give yourself time and space for your favorite activities and your favorite people.
  • Try relaxation techniques. Speaking of self-care, there are excellent relaxation methods that you can incorporate as well:
    • Meditation: Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, and today is mostly applied for relieving stress and anxiety. It can give you a sense of peace, help you focus on the present, reduce negative emotions, and improve your patience.
    • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique helps by consciously building tension and then releasing it. Progressive muscle relaxation can also help with physical issues like stomach aches, headaches, and problems sleeping.
    • Breathing Techniques: Controlled breathing exercises are beneficial for relieving stress. There are a few different methods you can try like deep breathing, breath focus, and modified lion’s breath.
    • Art: If you enjoy creative arts, you’re in luck! Studies have shown that structured coloring (coloring a design vs. coloring on blank paper) reduces anxiety.  Research also shows that music can reduce your cortisol levels and affect your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing.
    • Yoga: Yoga combines exercise and meditation practices that positively impact your mind and body.
  • Connect with the good people in your life: Establish and maintain a support system. Usually, this will mean your closest friends and family, the people who love you and know you best. Your situation, however, may merit reaching out to a support group that focuses on helping people dealing with your particular transition. Ask for help when you need it. 
  • Focus on the positive. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Think about your potential, the possibilities, or the payoffs that may come with this change. Remember a challenge that you overcame in the past. You can do it again!

Another way to focus on the positive is by practicing gratitude. Studies show that an attitude of thankfulness precipitates better mental health and a better quality of life. In our blog, “Adopting an Attitude of Gratitude: Why and How to Make Gratitude a Habit,” we give you some great tips on how (and why) to do this.

 

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.” Steve Maraboli

What if….

So, what if the change you’re going through affects you or impacts you so dramatically that you’re struggling with setting reasonable expectations, practicing self-care, or focusing on the positive, and your friends’ support isn’t enough? 

This is where counseling can help. You may even consider reaching out to a professional therapist in your preparation stage and integrating this within your support system. Counseling and cognitive behavior therapy can help guide you through transitions that are overwhelming and too difficult to handle on your own. 

Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to feel that you can’t go it alone. Author Ken Blanchard said, “Asking for other’s guidance helps you see what you may not be able to see.” Successful people recognize when they need help…and ask for it.

Especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like depression, stomachaches, headaches, anxiety, sleep issues, and crying spells, seeking the care of a qualified therapist may be one of the smartest things you do as you navigate this life transition.

Help for Coping With Transitions in Life

The Ross Center offers mental health services in D.C., Northern Virginia, and New York City. We serve all ages in all stages of life. Please reach out with any questions or concerns you may have. We are here to help!

Top Ethical Issues in Today’s Medical-Legal Environment. 2 CE Program for Mental Health Providers. 10/28/22
This is default text for notification bar