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>> Life Transtions
WHAT ARE LIFE TRANSITIONS?
Life is made up of beginnings and endings. Life transitions
are what take place as we go from the end of something
to the beginning of something else. These transitions
can be challenging because they force us to let go
of the familiar and face the future with a feeling
A life transition can be positive or negative, planned
or unexpected. Some transitions happen without warning,
and they may be quite dramatic, as in cases of accidents,
death, divorce, job loss, or serious illness. Other
life transitions come from positive experiences such
as getting married, going away to college, starting
a new job, moving to a new city, or giving birth to
a child. Even though events like these are usually
planned and anticipated, they can be just as life-altering
as the unexpected events. Whether positive or negative,
life transitions cause us to leave behind the familiar
and force us to adjust to new ways of living, at least
temporarily. They can leave us feeling completely
unprepared and we may be thrown into a personal crisis,
feeling shocked, angry, sad, and withdrawn.
EXAMPLES OF LIFE TRANSITIONS
Life transitions can include any of the following:
OF LIFE TRANSITIONS
- Buying a house
- Changing jobs
- Getting married
- Having a baby
- Leaving for college
- Selling a house
- Serious illness
- Significant loss (of a person, job, pet,
or anything important)
- Starting a career
Successfully moving through a life transition usually
means experiencing the following stages:
- Experience a range of negative feelings (anger,
anxiety, confusion, numbness, self-doubt).
- Feel a loss of self-esteem.
- Begin to accept the change.
- Acknowledge that you need to let go of the past
and accept the future.
- Begin to feel hopeful about the future.
- Feel increased self-esteem.
- Develop an optimistic view of the future.
The process of moving through a transition does not
always proceed in order, in these nice, predictable
stages. People usually move through the process in
different ways, often cycling back and forth among
HOW TO COPE WITH LIFE TRANSITIONS
Life transitions are often difficult, but they have
a positive side, too. They provide us with an opportunity
to assess the direction our lives are taking. They
are a chance to grow and learn.
Here are some ideas that may help make the
- Accept that change is a normal
part of life. People who have this
attitude seem to have the easiest time getting
through life transitions. Seeing changes
as negative or as experiences that must
be avoided makes them more difficult to
navigate and less personally productive.
- Identify your values and life
goals. If a person knows who they
are and what they want from life, they may
see the change as just another life challenge.
These people are willing to take responsibility
for their actions and do not blame others
for the changes that come along without
- Learn to identify and express
your feelings. While it’s
normal to try to push away feelings of fear
and anxiety, you will move through them
more quickly if you acknowledge them. Make
them real by writing them down and talking
about them with trusted friends and family
members. These feelings will have less power
over you if you face them and express them.
- Focus on the payoffs.
Think about what you have learned from other
life transitions. Recall the stages you
went through, and identify what you gained
and learned from each experience. Such transitions
can provide a productive time to do some
important self-exploration. They can be
a chance to overcome fears and to learn
to deal with uncertainty. These can be the
gifts of the transition process: to learn
more about yourself and what makes you happy
- Don’t be in a rush.
When your life is disrupted, it takes time
to adjust to the new reality. Expect to
feel uncomfortable during a transition as
you let go of old ways of doing things.
Try to avoid starting new activities too
soon, before you have had a chance to reflect
and think about what is really best for
- Expect to feel uncomfortable.
A time of transition is confusing and disorienting.
It is normal to feel insecure and anxious.
These feelings are part of the process,
and they will pass.
- Stay sober. Using alcohol
or drugs during this confusing time is not
a good idea. It can only make the process
- Take good care of yourself.
Transitions are very stressful, even if
they are supposed to be happy times. You
may not feel well enough to participate
in your normal activities. Find something
fun to do for yourself each day. Get plenty
of rest, exercise, and eat well.
- Build your support system.
Seek the support of friends and family members,
especially those who accept you without
judging you and encourage you to express
your true feelings. A time of transition
is also an excellent time to seek the support
of a mental health professional. He or she
can guide you through the transition process
in a safe and supportive environment.
- Acknowledge what you are leaving
behind. This is the first step
to accepting the new. Think about how you
respond to endings in your life: Do you
generally avoid them, like the person who
ducks out early on her last day on the job
because she can’t bear to say good-bye?
Or do you drag them out because you have
such a hard time letting go? Perhaps you
make light of endings, refusing to let yourself
feel sad. Before you can welcome the new,
you must acknowledge and let go of the old.
- Keep some things consistent.
When you are experiencing a significant
life change, it helps to keep as much of
your daily routine consistent as you can.
- Accept that you may never completely
understand what has happened to you.
You are likely to spend a lot of time feeling
confused and afraid. This makes most of
us very uncomfortable. The discomfort and
confusion will pass, and clarity will return.
- Take one step at a time.
It’s understandable to feel like your
life has become unmanageable. To regain
a sense of power, find one small thing you
can control right now. Then break it down
into small, specific, concrete steps. Write
them down and post them on your computer
monitor or mirror. Cross off each step as
you accomplish it.
Times of life transitions offer you the chance to
explore what your ideal life would look like. When
things are in disarray, you can reflect on the hopes
and dreams you once had but perhaps forgot about.
Take this time to write about them in a journal or
talk about them with a trusted friend or therapist.
Now is a good time to take advantage of the fork in
If you think that you could benefit from some
help working through a life transition that you are
currently experiencing, please contact Dr. Penson