Our Emotions During Life Transitions

As we go through life, undoubtedly we encounter complex choices or are presented with opportunities that will put us in the position in which change is likely, if not inevitable. You may be facing one or more of these right now, but certainly, you have at some point. Some changes may be work-related, perhaps professionally-advancing or a necessity to reach a career goal or start our dream business. Other transitions may be relationship-oriented, such as moving in with a partner, getting engaged or married, thinking about growing your family, or entering or ending a relationship. Alternately, the transitions may be spurred by the pursuit of a personal goal, such as moving to the place you’ve always wanted to live or moving back home. Sometimes we actively seek out or desire these opportunities, whereas other times we are a bit more ambivalent about embracing these transitions. The bottom line is that changes, even when the changes are welcome, are often not easy.

The focus of this article is how to address some of the reactions you may be experiencing in response to change and transition. First, we will identify some of the feelings or thoughts that may be affecting you right now and address why you may be feeling this way. The goal will be to increase awareness of what is going on internally and then apply them to the challenge or transition that you are experiencing right now.

A necessary step in working through change, as well as coping with so many things, is recognizing your emotions. If you’re contemplating a significant life change or are in the midst of one, undoubtedly you are feeling something. What are these emotions that you have been experiencing? Sadness, joy, excitement, dread, fear, overwhelm are common emotions that you may identify as having. The important thing is to acknowledge that you are having them and not fight the fact that you are experiencing them. This is because experiencing emotions is inherent to going through change, and more fundamentally, to the human experience. Fighting having emotions is not a good long-term strategy.

For many of us, one emotion that may jump out when facing transitions is anxiety.

When we experience anxiety in response to facing changes or transitions, this can be quite normal. One reason that this happens is simply that change is inherently stressful.

No doubt the thoughts that can go through your mind right now can trigger anxiety. Anxiety can be an adaptive response, and a very natural response when we are faced with uncertainty and stress. Anxiety may propel us to action when it comes to making decisions or being alert to what is going on around us. But it may also hinder us and essentially make us freeze up or become overwhelmed. When you notice that you are feeling anxious, ask yourself if you are using your anxiety to your advantage to propel you forward, or is it standing in your way. If it the latter, it is time to intervene and check in with yourself on what you can do at this point.

Whatever it is that you are feeling, recognizing that you are having these feelings is key to healthy adjustment to these transitions. What you do with these emotions is key. So what can you do to help yourself manage these emotions during the transitional periods in your life?

  1. Talk to a trusted someone. Find someone who you trust to share the stressful moments, doubts, work through decisions, and otherwise vent when you need it. It can be a family member, friend, or a professional. The important thing is to know that you don’t have to go through it alone. It is also worth noting that the people in your life that you are reluctant to share with may be more understanding than you anticipate.
  2. Destress regularly. What do you typically do to help yourself when you are feeling stressed? The same things that you usually do to decompress or overcome stress will be useful to do now. Whether it be taking a walk, planning a dinner with a friend, going to the gym, or watching a movie, it will be important to incorporate some form of stress management, no matter how small, into your day every day.
  3. Do something unrelated to the stress you are experiencing. Take a day for yourself doing something you enjoy that has nothing to do with this transition, play basketball with a friend, get outside in nature, volunteer. You get the idea. Doing something that distracts you from your current stress will help you reclaim clarity and perspective.

 Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash