Hadley Tarantino, M.A.
Major Life Transitions and How to Manage Them
Are you the type of person that thrives on change, adventure and the possibility of something new and exciting? Or are you comfortable with the status quo, keeping life as simple and routine as possible?
No matter which personality suits you best, both types of people encounter major transitions throughout the course of their lives. Some individuals are extremely adept and well-adjusted with the task of handling life’s major changes whereas others struggle with the change and upheaval some shifts may cause. What may cause one person to become very anxious and dysregulated can cause no reaction in another person. A perfect example of this is reflected in various psychological findings. According to many studies, having a child is considered a desirable and positive life event, yet other studies who have used life satisfaction scales have found that parenthood decreases one’s well-being (Agache et al., 2014). Neither of these two studies are “wrong;” it just goes to show how life events impact people differently. Everybody handles life transitions and their stressors in their own way, and ultimately it is most important to learn how to adjust and regulate oneself to meet these transitions when they arise.
Marriage, the birth of a new baby, moving homes and retirement are all considered major life transitions, and each shift has its own unique stressors associated with it. Huge transitions such as these can certainly be a positive experience, but many can also bring about an undesirable experience. These changes can be as large as adopting a child and growing the family or as seemingly small as starting a new position at work. Either way, our lives can be thrown off track, and it is helpful to know some beneficial tips and advice on how to deal with these changes in a healthy way.
Acknowledge your loss.
The word transition implies moving into a new stage and leaving a past one behind. The life shift may be positive or negative, but it is beneficial to acknowledge and reflect upon the loss of what is being left behind. There may be a small grieving process for the former phase that needs to take place in order to fully move toward the new stage with 100% clarity and confidence.
Establish a daily routine.
Organization and schedule can provide a chaotic life with boundaries and consistency. Establishing a routine can make the transition to a new house, family, or job much easier. If your morning yoga session or nighttime reading can remain consistent throughout your transition between two major life stages, your body and mind will thank you for giving it boundaries and a place to find solace and comfort.
Reach out for support.
Life transitions often come with their own set of stressors. These movements in life don’t have to be experienced alone. Supportive friends and family members are a great resource when a life transition has proven exceptionally difficult or hard to manage. A particularly helpful shoulder to lean on during tough times can be someone who has experienced that specific life transitional phase themselves! They can offer their own set of tips and give advice on how they made it through a new job, move, or addition to the family. Loneliness does not have to be tacked on to the list of stressors or issues that may accompany various shifts in life. Reach out to supportive people!
Recognize the opportunities and new experiences that await you.
Just because one phase of your life is ending doesn’t mean the following stage can’t be fun or exciting. To grow and experience all life has to offer is a wonderful part of the human experience. Boundless opportunities, new friends, or peace may be waiting in the next part of life.
Recall past life transitions you’ve experienced and how you got through them.
Chances are you’ve encountered and survived many life transitions in the past. You may not have referred to them as such but life is full of changes. If you can recall a past shift that may have been difficult for you, you can reflect upon what strategies and tools you used to overcome those anxieties or worries. Another option is to decide what hasn’t worked for you in the past and try to do something different for your current life transition. Your own experience is your best resource.
Agache, A., Leyendecker, B., Schäfermeier, E., & Schölmerich, A. (2014). Paternal involvement elevates trajectories of life satisfaction during transition to parenthood. European Journal Of Developmental Psychology, 11(2), 259-277. doi:10.1080/17405629.2013.851025