Coping with change: 5 ways to make it through your life transitions

  • Life transitions, whether negative or exciting, can invoke fear and anxiety.
  • But having coping strategies can help you manage these changes more seamlessly. 
  • From focusing on an aspect of transition to getting creative, we run through five things to help you through.

Big or small, we all experience transitions throughout our lives. Whether it’s moving out of your parents’ home to head off to college, becoming a parent, starting a new job, losing a loved one, moving to a new city, becoming seriously ill or retiring, these changes can come in many different forms.

Coping with change at any age can be challenging, especially if they come unexpectedly. It leaves your future filled with questions and uncertainty, which can naturally leave you anxious and afraid.

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But with certain coping strategies, these planned or unplanned transitions can be made a bit easier and help you get through even the toughest of them.

1. Focus on the aspect of transition in which you thrive

There are three aspects of transition:  “the long goodbye,” in which you mourn the old you; “the messy middle,” in which you let go of habits and create new ones; and “the new beginning,” in which you unveil your fresh self, as explained by Bruce Feiler, author of The New York Times column “This Life.”

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According to Feiler, 40% of people have difficulty saying goodbye, while others can easily shut doors. Consider these three transition aspects, decide which one you tend to gravitate to, and then focus on that one. 

2. Be clear about your emotions - then act on them

A big life change, even if it’s a positive one, can be scary. But identifying your fear will help you process the change, as well as other emotions, says Cover Media.

As explained by Dr Frank Ninivaggi for Psychology Today: “How change becomes successful depends on how feelings manage and create positive outcomes.”

Change is external, and success comes from mindfully understanding the difference between change and transition, adds Ninivaggi.

3. Let some things go

By letting go of certain aspects of your old habits or personality, you automatically make space for new outlooks and ways of doing things.

Letting go, as Feiler terms it, is a way to “clear out some unwanted parts of our lives to make way for the new parts to come”.

4. Get creative

From picking up a paintbrush to trying your hand at baking, tapping into that creative muscle can help you feel grounded when life becomes chaotic.

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When Feiler interviewed a number of people going through life changes, he surprisingly found that many of them turned to creativity during this time. “They start to dance, cook, paint; they write poems, thank-you notes, diary entries,” he says.

5. Give your life story a revision

Change is inherent to life, says Dr Susan Krauss Whitbourne for Psychology Today. She adds that no one ever gets through life without undergoing some type of transition, so when it happens, you shouldn’t fight it.

Transitions are also periods in which old behaviours and fears can be healed, notes Cover Media. Remember that you are in control of the story you tell about your life. 

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