Moving Up: Managing the Transition

Change, transition, next chapter, new beginning – whatever phrase you use to describe them, transitions are a normal, healthy part of life. This time of year brings many transitions – graduations (from pre-k to college), moving, changing jobs or schools, etc. These ceremonies are fun and exciting but can also feel overwhelming and more emotional than you expected. It’s important to remember to check in with yourself and your loved ones during times of change.

We talked with Lena Pope Family Therapist Paul Blankenship, LPC about transition and how we can navigate change in ways that help us emerge from the transition healthier, stronger, and more connected. Here’s a quick overview of the insights he shared:

  • Know yourself, your strengths, and your limitations.
  • Plan for excellence – not perfection! Don’t miss the “moment” because you are too focused on making everything perfect.
  • Take time to be present and celebrate each day with those you love.
  • Balance “what do you think?” questions with “what / how are you feeling?” questions. Talk it out.
  • Accept the closure of one chapter by embracing the promise of the next one.

Self-Care. Beyond candles or bubble baths, self-care is about increasing our capacity to help others by taking the time to invest in ourselves mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. As caregivers of any kind, we battle an innate drive to provide care and support for others first. The mindset is “I will get to me later” or that “self-care is selfish.” Understanding this distinction can help: Selfishness is taking more than you need; self-care is taking what you need.

Managing expectations is critical to successful transitions. Often, we envision outcomes that are beyond our means. When we endeavor to make an event or moment so spectacular or perfect, many times we end up so stressed, overwhelmed, and irritable that the joy of the moment and the relationships that define the moment are lost. Instead, we should balance our hope and anticipations with reasonable expectations. Unreasonable expectations set the stage for failure, which often leads to guilt and self-blaming thoughts of “I wasn’t enough.”

Stuff never replaces what we give when we bring ourselves. Being present matters more.

Live each day as a short life. Celebrate the good and understand transitions or change (of any kind) will always involve some degree of pain or discomfort. The “pain”, as we experience it, is generally associated with “letting go” or “fear of unknown”. Whether the transitions are the normal “phase of life” variety, or they are the larger total life-change type of challenge, getting to the next level in our journey means we will encounter numerous “letting go” moments. Make time to be present and celebrate each day with those you love. These moments are short but precious.

Encourage emotional expression. Transitions can bring about multiple kinds of feelings: excited and nervous; ready but also unsure of what’s to come. Ask “what do you think?” questions as well as “how are you feeling?” questions. For younger children, provide an emotion wheel chart or a chart with faces expressing emotions. And what about you? Be as gracious with yourself as you are to your best friend. Whatever encouragement you would give them in a similar situation – take your own advice!

Acceptance. Life transitions and changes come with excitement and trepidation over what comes next. It’s ok to want to hold on to the “known” parts of life and to feel sadness at the closing of a chapter. The key to being able to look forward and embrace the hope and promises of the next step in your journey is accepting change as a normal, healthy part of life.

If you are wavering in this part of the transition, start back at the beginning of this list and remember to take one step at a time.

TIPS for Managing Transitions:

  • Practice Self-Care
  • Manage Expectations
  • Live Each Day as a Short Life
  • Encourage Emotional Expression
  • Accept Change