“Transitions in life can offer opportunities for discovery.” – Robbie Shell
Life transitions can be incredibly difficult and, for some, challenging to identify. A transition is an event or experience that changes someone’s sense of self or identity. Many people don’t recognize that any type of event or experience can be stressful. That stress can bring on symptoms of anxiety and depression, such as a decrease in motivation, changes to sleep patterns, fatigue, and even suicidal ideations. Transitions in our lives are not usually only happy or only sad. Many times events or experiences that cause a transition in our lives are a combination of emotions.
A personal example that comes to mind for me was when I graduated from high school. After four years of navigating academics, social situations, and self-identity, I was finally done. At the time, I was so excited that I spent the entire weekend with my friends celebrating by watching our favorite movies, listening to our favorite music, and sharing our most treasured memories. A few weeks later, we had our formal graduation ceremony. Graduation was exciting for me until it was over, and we all started to disperse and walk towards our families to celebrate.
At that moment, I started to realize how much our lives were changing. What was I going to do now? High school was over, and in the Fall, I’d be transitioning into a community college since I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life. My core group of friends was moving away for college. What was going to happen to our friendships? How were they going to change? And finally, I thought of my friend who was joining the military. Would he be okay? Would I ever get to see him again? At that moment, I genuinely had no idea about the future, and I was scared. Not only for him but for me and what my future would hold. The anxiety I felt in that moment was devastating. I began to feel a sense of loneliness and fear during an event when most were happy and celebrating. At the time, I did what I could to manage it. In the following weeks, I distracted myself by surrounding myself with my family, planned a camping trip for one last celebration with my friends, and spent as much time as humanly possible with my friends before college started in the Fall.
Since then, I have experienced a myriad of other life transitions. Moving away from my hometown in another state to Chicago, graduating from college and graduate school, moving out and living on my own for the first time, and even marriage. Each of these events were joyous times in my life; however, like graduating from high school, they were not without their downsides as well. Each time, along with my joy and excitement about starting a new chapter in my life, I experienced feelings of sadness and fear due to grieving the end of that particular chapter of my life before starting a new one.
Over the years, I learned new ways to cope. First, I learned to try to keep an open mind to each life transition. That as scary as each transition was, they offered me an experience to grow and discover new parts of myself and the world around me. Second, I learned to limit the amount of change I experienced at once. During times of significant life transition, I try to keep aspects of my life, such as my schedule and diet, as consistent as possible. The third thing I have done is recognize that life transitions actually hold a special place in my memories because without them, I would not be where I am today. During stressful times I recall each life transition I successfully made it through and remind myself that I can and will eventually navigate myself through the current situation. The final thing I do is turn to my support networks. This includes my family, friends, and therapist. Friends and family are incredibly helpful. They help me realize I am not alone during any of these processes. My therapist has helped me cope with and process the transitions in a way only a therapist can. My therapist validated my experiences and emotions and helped me process the impact each life transition has had on me in a way that was only focused on my side.
Since experiencing each of my life transitions, I have learned the importance of having a variety of ways to cope with and process the events. One of the most helpful ways I have found to cope was through attending my own individual therapy. If you want help processing a life transition, whatever it may be, please feel free to contact us. There are a variety of therapists who can help you process your life transitions.