Navigating Life Transitions
By Mandy Traut
With the New Year, I literally started life in a new State. My husband and I have already spent two weeks in California’s Bay Area! After one week here, I attended my first interview with an alternative energy company! While exciting, it will take some time to adjust, find a community, and familiarize ourselves with the area.
My husband and I moved to the Bay Area from the Seattle area after he got a job at Google. The process was complex. We were well-known in our community of choice and had to accept saying goodbye to dear friends. But, where there is an ending, there is a new beginning. The possibilities are new and endless. Life is literally starting anew.
Most major life transitions, such as mine, are both exciting and stressful. It is important to learn coping strategies as you navigate these transitions. Speaking for myself, I recall having tremendous anxiety in the weeks leading up to our family move; how was I going to find a job? How was I going to leave the house without a bus pass? How was I going to start discovering my surroundings? Even with the support of my partner, I feared being all alone. My anxiety was quite a normal reaction to my life transition.
Here are some suggestions on navigating life transitions:
Accept Fear, Then Choose a Positive Perspective
Fear is a normal part of any change. Therefore, it made sense to welcome fear without letting it control me. So often, we avoid negative emotions. Unfortunately, avoiding them only leads them to knock on our door that much harder. It is better to embrace and accept the negative emotions as part of the process. The trick is to observe the emotion rather than let the emotion manipulate or control us. Put another way, learn to be mindful with your fear. I am the first to admit that this is not an easy process. It takes practice. It takes failing more than once. It takes learning to be gentle with yourself. But, it is possible. Once I accepted that I was afraid, I chose to see things from a positive point of view. I chose to believe in my capacity to familiarize myself with my new surroundings, create new connections, and seek new opportunities. Ultimately, accepting and observing your fear takes away its power over you. Then, you can get down to business.
Recognize The Cycle of Change
Life transitions remind you the nothing is permanent. The only certainty in life is that change is inevitable. The Universe tends to throw you a curve ball just when you believe you are high on life, set in your ways, and at your peak. Maybe it is the Universe’s way of saying, “Wait…you can’t get too comfortable!” Truthfully, when you get too comfortable, you stop growing. Do you really want to stop growing?
Often, there is a natural cyclical rhythm to life. We tend to cycle through life transitions, much like the seasons. Sheryl Paul says that there are three phases of any life transition: 1) letting go 2) the in-between 3) rebirth. It is important to be aware of these cycles and be gentle with yourself when you face each phase. Letting go is hard. It means opening up to change. Often, we are most resistant at this stage. Being in a state of uncertainty is equally, if not more difficult. Who wants to feel like there is no ground beneath one’s feet? But all this is part of change that leads to rebirth – that new start. Support from current family and friends is vitally important during this process. When possible, holding on to some familiar elements is also helpful.
Trust the Process
Everything happens in its own time and place. There is no need to force or control how fast things happen. Of course, some things do have deadlines. My husband and I were told we needed to find permanent housing within one month of moving. When there is no deadline looming over your head, I suggest letting life unfold in a natural and organic way. Trust yourself, the process, and time itself. Be gentle and kind with yourself when it takes more time to adjust.
Amazing growth occurs during life transitions. Transitions wake you up and help you see things from a different perspective. They may also feel very challenging while you are in the process of living through them. The best thing to do is be kind to yourselves, face your fears, keep positive, trust the process, and recognize the unfolding cycles of change. Likewise, trust the things you already have in your life that are familiar and comforting. As for me, I’m taking it one day at a time. So far, I think my strategy is working.