Transition means change, and change is constant. When life asks us to transition, it is asking us to reexamine our current situation, and then to grow. We must continue to develop and grow. Transitions are challenging to us, but are also beneficial.
Adjusting to change can be highly stressful and sometimes we experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and heavy emotions as we go through it. Sleep issues and drug and alcohol use issues may also be present.
The length of an adjustment period can range from a single event (example: termination of a romantic relationship), up to something on-going (example: painful illness with loss of ability).
Events can be predictable (example: knowing that you’re going to attend college) or unpredictable (example: a sudden loss of a job).
Regardless of the type of transition, we are required to change. Changing isn’t always easy, especially when we go through a transition that is on-going and or unpredictable.
During these times of difficulty, we must also manage our expectations of ourselves. Oftentimes, we’re hard on ourselves, as we feel that we should have been able to “handle the situation,” “get though it faster,” or whatever the unrealistic expectation was.
The struggle can be greater than we imagined. We can gently remind ourselves that it’s okay if things didn’t go as we expected them to. We will keep moving forward despite this.
It can be natural for us to resist change because we have feelings of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety. One chapter of life is closed and another is open.
Changes can be welcomed or unwelcomed. When they are unwelcomed, this is when we really resist change. What was once familiar becomes unfamiliar.
We may also feel angry, disillusioned, and overwhelmed. We might even blame ourselves for the change, depending on the situation.
Examples of challenging life transitions
- Marriage or a new relationship
- Pregnancy and arrival of a new baby
- Infertility and infant loss
- Moving away from home and adjusting to a new location
- Adjusting to college
- Empty nesting
- Divorce, separation, or recovery from infidelity
- Retirement, job loss, or career changes
- Financial gain or loss
- Serious illness or disability of self or a loved one
- Issues of aging
- Death of a loved one
- Questioning spirituality or faith
Adjustment disorder (DSM-V)
The development of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor(s) occurring within 3 months of the onset of the stressor(s).
These symptoms or behaviors are clinically significant, as evidenced by one or both of the following:
- Marked distress that is out of proportion to the severity or intensity of the stressor, taking into account the external context and the cultural factors that might influence symptom severity and presentation.
- Significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
The stress-related disturbance does not meet the criteria for another mental disorder and is not merely an exacerbation of a preexisting mental disorder.
The symptoms do not represent normal bereavement.
Once the stressor (or its consequences) has terminated, the symptoms do not persist for more than an additional 6 months.
Reference: National Library of Medicine – NCBI (taken directly from)
Symptoms of depression and anxiety may also be present.
Depression and anxiety
What are the positives of change?
- Promote personal growth
- Successfully dealing with a change can leave a person stronger, and feeling more prepared for the next change.
- Increased confidence
- Gain new knowledge
- Develop new skills
- Discover what’s most important to you in life.
- Achieving greater self-awareness
- Unwanted or unexpected changes may produce beneficial outcomes.
Eustress – positive stress
Life transitions increase stress, and people experience all kinds of stress, including eustress. Eustress is a form of stress that helps you feel motivated to take on challenges and make forward progress. (Example: studying for an exam. It can be stressful, but motivating to get a good grade)
Tips for coping
- Accept that change is a natural part of life.
- Learn to identify and express your emotions.
- Regulate your emotions.
- Calm and regulate your nervous system.
- Identify your values and goals.
- Build a support system.
- Slow down and notice the rewards and benefits.
- Acknowledge what’s been left in the past.
- Expect to feel uncomfortable.
- Increase your self-care.
Counseling can help
When you go through a difficult transition and develop symptoms of adjustment issues, depression, and anxiety, a counselor can help you find your way and develop coping strategies.
If you know that a big life transition is coming, it can be beneficial to ask for help before it happens. Be a little more prepared. Know what resources and services are available to you while you go through the process of change.
Build up your coping strategies and self-care. The additional preparation will help, and a counselor can guide you through preparation and with finding those resources.
When you seek support from a counselor, you will also be able to better face unexpected future challenges.
A counselor can use a variety of techniques to help you. To name a few: Dialectical Behavior Therapy; Emotionally Focused Therapy; Person-Centered Therapy; Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; Acceptance Commitment Therapy; Motivational Interviewing; Solution-Focused Brief Therapy.
Where you can find help
More information on mental health counseling
I’m working with people struggling with life transistions, anxiety, trauma, and eating disorders
Transitions that I can support you through:
• Changes in family dynamics and roles
• Becoming a parent
• Grief and loss
• Switching career paths or losing a job
• Adjusting to college
• Seasonal stressors
• Pandemic related adjustments
• Natural disaster
• Setting a new schedule, habits and goals to accompany the changes
You don’t have to carry the weight of stress alone. Let’s talk about what’s going on and what you can do about it.
If you are a Pennsylvania resident, call or email me, we can set up a teletherapy appointment. Getting started with teletherapy is very easy and I have everything in place to protect your privacy.
I specialize in working with endurance runners and athletes. We have a unique set of problems that we deal with.
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