Sometimes the universe is just not fair.
On the very night we left daylight saving time, the night we actually gained an hour, I could not fall sleep. I’d turned all the clocks back an hour, set my alarm for my early appointment and intentionally went to bed early to be sure I was well-rested for the next day’s tasks. I did all the right things and still I could not sleep.
Change and transition are like that sometimes — no matter how well you prepare yourself, whether the transition is a good one or not, change is challenging.
Transitions, those permanent or semi-permanent changes to our lives, are stressful even when the transition is planned and anticipated, like a wedding or a child going off to college. If you have ever taken one of those self-surveys claiming to answer the question “How Much Stress are You Under?”, you’ll note that the circumstances that cause stress in our lives are not always the unhappy ones.
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To be sure, the death of a loved one or the ending of a relationship are extremely stressful, taxing our emotional and physical resources and marking us in multiple ways. But stress occurs through other transitions as well — the birth of child or a college graduation, for example. And sometimes the happy transitions are the most challenging because neither we nor the people around us realize the adjustment and emotional work those happy transitions require.
The reality is that whether it is a good transition or a negative one, any transition changes our lives and that change is difficult even if it is a change we’ve wanted and initiated.
There are healthy ways to prepare for the inevitable transitions we face, however.
Here are some suggestions that may not make transitions easier, but may help us stay healthier as we pass through.
First, stay grounded or centered. If the transition is for you and a significant other, keep the relationship in focus and lines of communication open, and be patient with one another — we all react to stress in different ways. If the transition you are experiencing is a personal one, practice self-care, reflect on your core values, and as the saying goes, “keep your eyes on the prize.” Remember that you will get through this (whatever it may be).
Second, be open to change. This sounds redundant, I know, but most of us resist change, and it is amazing how many times we will have a profound transition in our lives and be totally caught off guard by the changes that come with it. Most of us are resistant to change, so recognize that and work to minimize it.
Finally, be willing to say goodbye. Transitions usually mean the end of something — single life, the college experience or an unhealthy relationship. No matter what is ending, it will involve saying goodbye, and that can be painful. Even leaving a bad situation means leaving the hopes and dreams that got you there. Goodbyes are never easy, even when they are necessary.
We all experience transitions in our lives, whether minor or life-changing, positive or painful. Our ability to keep ourselves and our relationships healthy has less to do with what the transitions are than how we approach and manage them. We’ll still go through transitions and changes, but hopefully, we’ll be healthier and stronger on the other side.