In the always-evolving narrative of life, transitions can be scary and intimidating as they mean you will have to face an unknown. Luckily, therapy is here to help you guide your story into one of healing and self-discovery. Whether you’re struggling to readjust after a breakup, dealing with the beginning or end of college or trying to settle into a new job, a big life change can feel isolating, overwhelming, exciting and terrifying all at once. During these transitional periods, it can feel impossible not to fixate on nostalgia or romanticize the past. You may also find yourself obsessing over the future and becoming preoccupied with events that haven’t even taken place. Instead of getting bogged down in the what was or what ifs, here are a few steps to help you take control of your life’s narrative with the help of skilled clinicians.
The first step can be more challenging than you think: acknowledge your emotions. Start by recognizing any feelings of fear and overwhelm. Noticing changes in behavior is also a great way to identify emotions. Perhaps you’re spending too much time alone and isolating yourself from your friends and family. Maybe you’re procrastinating all of your tasks or you’re being hard on yourself. Acknowledge the control-focused coping skills you may be relying on and try to understand the emotions behind them.
For example: maybe you are isolating yourself because you’re feeling shame. If you’ve lost your job or you’re not loving college as much as everyone else on Instagram seems to be, you may feel embarrassed. Perhaps you are procrastinating because you’re avoiding feeling stress. Facing the challenges of a life transition can bring unwelcomed discomfort. By procrastinating, you’re creating a temporary sense of relief among chaos. Maybe you are being hard on yourself and leaning into perfectionism because you feel afraid. You’re terrified to make mistakes, even though this new chapter may involve something completely new to you. When facing a significant life change, the stakes may feel higher and the fear of a wrong decision or step can intensify perfectionist tendencies.
After you identify your emotions, simply acknowledge them without judgment. Remind yourself that you are having a completely normal response to a new situation. Sit with your emotions and try to accept them for what they are without the pressure to change them quite yet. Just feel your feelings.
There are times when sitting with certain emotions can be unhelpful, especially if you’re prone to anxiety or panic attacks. If you find that allowing yourself to feel your uncomfortable emotions is putting you in a state of panic, then calming yourself down is your first priority. Practicing grounding or meditation techniques can help you stay present rather than spiraling about the future or agonizing over the past. An easy way to do this is to search for calming meditation content on your favorite podcast app. Even two minutes of guided deep breathing can help recenter your nervous system and reset your outlook.
If you have more time, it’s incredibly helpful to engage in self-care after acknowledging tough emotions. Self-care is different for everyone. For the perfectionist, it may be leaving your bed unmade and watching a TV show instead of going for that regimented walk. For the procrastinator, it may be blasting your favorite playlist and tackling the closet reorganization you’ve been putting off. For the people-pleaser, it may be canceling all of your weekend plans and opting for a cozy evening alone. Reflect on which activity would make you feel happy, energized and at peace, and take action to make it happen
Imagine your best friend is going through a challenging life change. She just moved to the city of her dreams for a job opportunity, but now she feels completely isolated. How would you support her? How would you reassure her? You may check in with her more frequently or encourage her with advice on how to meet new people. Most importantly, you would meet her with gentle kindness and compassion. Try to apply this philosophy to your own life by practicing self-compassion. Transitions often come with a sense of urgency or pressure to have everything figured out immediately. Remind yourself that it’s okay to take small steps and that not everything needs to be resolved at once. Treat yourself the same way you would treat your best friend: with understanding, respect and light-heartedness. This will help you reframe your feelings of stress into ones of resilience and fulfillment.
While identifying and acknowledging your emotions, practicing self-care and performing self-compassion are all vital steps to take during a life change, it could also be time to consider seeking professional help. It can be a challenging step to admit that you need help. You may feel vulnerable or have a fear of being rejected. However, seeking help when you recognize that you need it is a sign of self-awareness and emotional intelligence. It shows that you are in touch with your limitations and are willing to take steps to address them. Finding a therapist who is the right fit for you can help you to further identify the root cause of your feelings, shift your perspective and collaborate with you to create a plan of action. Your story may have unique complexities and changes, but a therapist is a great support to help you navigate those with confidence and purpose.
Remember that transitions, while challenging, also offer opportunities for personal growth, self-discovery and new beginnings. By addressing your fears and anxieties with patience, self-compassion and a little help from your therapist, you can navigate these changes more effectively and emerge stronger on the other side. Next time a new chapter of your life results in feelings of anxiety, fear, confusion or shame, remember that you are the author of your own life. Ready to start rewriting the narrative? Follow these steps to get started:
We offer a diverse range of individual counseling services and couples therapy. Our dedicated therapists can help with stress management, symptoms of depression, self-esteem challenges, and college student counseling. Additionally, we specialize in offering support for postpartum depression and anxiety, addressing body image concerns, and navigating the unique challenges faced by women, among other aspects. If you need support reach out to connect with a therapist.