If you’ve ever wondered how to manage major life changes … well, welcome to the club.
It seems that in life, just as you get all of your ducks in a row, one of them waddles off. Sometimes I think I’d settle for all of my ducks being in the same pond.
The problem is that, just when I think I’ve got a handle on everything, something huge changes in my life … and some of the ducks waddle off.
The truth is, life is a long series of changes.
In September 2016, we moved to a new house. Big change, right?
We moved, in fact, from an off-grid cabin to an on-grid house.
A small cabin to a big house. We’re went from a four room cabin to a twelve room (if you count those halls that are bigger than our old bedroom) house. When I think too much about it, I start feeling overwhelmed.
The children moved from a homeschooling, free-range environment to a small rural school and a school bus.
From “way out in the boonies”, miles from our nearest neighbour, to a village ten minutes to town.
So many changes.
If you’re wondering why all the changes, some of which I said I’d never do, you need to read this post.
Life requires you to be able to shift from one situation, relationship, or career to another. These shifts, or transitions, can be quite disconcerting and even challenging at times. If you’re aware of upcoming transitions you’ll be experiencing, you’ll be in a better position to prepare for it. Applying helpful strategies will then help you manage the shifts more effectively.
Common Life Transitions
Becoming familiar with common adult life transitions will help you be proactive when it comes to managing your own transitions. Consider these situations:
- Moving your residence. Leaving a home you’ve lived in for years can trigger many feelings of sadness, loss, and even grief. Leaving our little homestead was triggering all of those, even though we are keeping the property and will be returning. (It’s becoming a seasonal camp once we get health issues dealt with.)
- Getting married. Deciding to permanently share your life and residence with another person is quite a shift in your lifestyle, causing a lot of change and perhaps turmoil at first, even though you’re happy with your decision to wed.
- Having your first baby. Becoming responsible for another life is one of the most awesome, life-changing events you’ll ever experience. It has been years since I’ve experienced that, but I will never forget the overwhelming emotions of that transition.
- Experiencing a divorce. The termination of a relationship that you thought would last all your life leads to an obvious period of change and turbulence.
- Obtaining a new job. Leaving co-workers, supervisors, and surroundings you’ve grown accustomed to can bring great changes to your life.
- Switching careers. Changing from one type of work to another is a monumental life-changing event for most people.
- Losing a parent through death. Losing one of the people you’ve been closest to all your life will trigger many feelings. You might even look at your own existence much differently once a parent passes. This is one that I dread facing someday.
- Losing a spouse or worse, a child, through death. There is no doubt that this is a trauma that can change a person drastically. I have known many people who have been unable to successfully move through this difficult life change.
- Coping with your best friend moving away. If you’ve been close to a person for many years and weathered other transitions with their help, it can be quite challenging to face the fact that they won’t be close by anymore.
And of course there are more – children going to college or moving away, for example. A promotion. Retirement. New grandchildren. SO. MANY. CHANGES. That’s life, though, right? Life is a series of changes – but often it’s difficult to make the adjustments.
How to Manage Major Life Changes
As you can see, some of these transitions occur spontaneously and without much warning. Others are, for the most part, orchestrated by you. Examine these ideas on how you can successfully manage your life transitions:
- Plan ahead. When you’re thinking about doing something that will trigger a transition in your life, plan it at a time when you expect other areas of your life to be relatively calm. You have the ability to schedule some of your life transitions.
- Space your transitions, if possible. For example, if you’ve just taken a new job in town, it may not be the time to move your residence. Give yourself a year to adjust to the new position before you start looking for a new house. It’s wise to allow some time to get used to one new situation before beginning another. The transition process takes time for adjustment.
- Continue with regular routines. Throughout the time of transition, stick with as many of your routines as possible. Routines can bring structure and a certain comfort to your life whenever there’s turbulence from a transition.
- Give yourself some “down time.” Because transitions often trigger feelings of stress, it’s important to allow yourself plenty of breaks for rest and relaxation. Taking part in your favorite hobbies or just hanging out around the house can give you time to recharge and help you deal with the current transition.
- Reach out to others for support. Recognize that everyone, without exception, lives through transitions. Therefore, you can turn to others to hear their stories of how they got through such changes. And sometimes, just being with other people can remind you that you are not alone.
- Hold onto your faith. In the past, I’ve written about what Old Order Mennonites call Gelassenheit, the firm acceptance that God is in control. Gelassenheit, as I wrote in that post, is the inspiration behind the Serenity Prayer that so many of us know.
Major life transitions can be successfully managed. Knowing about common life transitions, planning ahead, spacing transitions, and continuing your routines are effective ways to cope. Also, taking rest breaks and asking others for support will provide you with what you need to face and deal successfully with whatever transitions life brings.