Transitions can be exciting but also stressful. In my experience, people tend to respond to major life changes in one of two ways: Denial or Distraction. Deniers cling to the past and are flooded with nostalgia. Distractors bury themselves in busywork, hoping to put the upheaval behind them as soon as possible.
Bruce Feiler, author of the bestselling book Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change in a Nonlinear Age, has made a similar observation:
“When most people enter a lifequake, they feel overwhelmed and go to one of two extremes. They either make a 212-item to-do list and say, ‘I’ll get through it in a weekend,’ or they lie in a fetal position and say, ‘I’ll never get through it.’ Neither approach works.”
Feiler offers a healthier alternative plan for dealing with upheaval:
1. Lean into your feelings
Instead of sweeping emotions under the rug, use them as data points. What can you learn from them? How can they help you re-goal? Consider writing about how you are feeling or talking to someone.
2. Reach out
Navigating a transition alone makes it even harder. Seek wisdom from a friend, a colleague, a teacher, or even a stranger. Share your experience with others. Spread the wisdom you have acquired along the way.
3. Mark the occasion
According to Feiler, rituals are effective tools to help us navigate transition. Commemorate the change with a ceremony, a special meal, a toast, or lighting a candle. Rituals help us shed parts of ourselves we are ready to let go of and embrace a new beginning.
4. Be good to your body
When your routine is disrupted, it’s all the more important to take care of yourself. Prioritize sleep, eat nourishing meals, and build movement into your everyday routine. Feeling physically strong will help you stay mentally strong.
5. Get creative
Make the most of the fresh start by tapping into your creativity. Start a new hobby or personal project that engages your imagination and allows for growth and possibility. As Feiler says, “The simple act of imagining — a painting, a poem, a loaf of bread — allows us to imagine a better future.”
Transitions are often tough, messy and uncomfortable. They also mark new beginnings.
As Tom Stoppard remarked, “Look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”
I wish you all the best,
Dr. Samantha Boardman