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10 tips for life transitions

June 21, 2016

graduation transitions

The summer season reminds us of the inevitability of transitions and change. You may be one who thrives on transitions and thirsts for change. For many of us, change can be hard. It can disrupt our routine, shift our feelings, and even leave us wanting what was true in the past. If these, or other things, are true for you it is important to acknowledge the impacts transitions and change can have. As you encounter seasons of change, here are a 10 helpful tools:

1. Acknowledge your feelings about the transition or change
If you feel worried, anxious, or uncomfortable about the upcoming change, it is important to acknowledge those feelings. By accepting the emotions, you give yourself the ability to understand the emotion and how to deal with it.

2. Prepare yourself for the transition or change
Regardless of the change or transition that will be happening in the future, there are things one can do to prepare themselves for it. For example, if you are visiting and/or moving to a new city, research the city and see what types of things you can learn about it and the types of things you can do there.

3. Recognize that you are in control of your attitudes and actions towards the transition or change
The transition or change you may be experiencing could change your life significantly. The way you choose to approach the situation can make a big difference in the outcome. For example, you could choose to be angry or upset and take your feelings out on others, or you can see the change as a new opportunity and see the potential positives it may bring.

4. Talk to others with similar experiences
It may be comforting and bring relief to talk to others who have or are experiencing similar things to you. You can learn about how they got through the change or transition by asking to hear about their experiences or by asking for advice on how to cope with the change.

5. Take time to allow for relaxation and exercise
Relaxation has been shown to decrease stress and improve emotional wellbeing. Things such as meditation and deep breathing can easily be learned and can help you relax and cope with stress in an effective way.

Exercise has also been shown to help reduce anxiety and relieve stress. Ideally, you should exercise for 30 minutes on most days. It can be simple things like going on a walk around your neighborhood, biking to get your groceries, or going to the gym.

6. Be grateful for the transition or change
The transition or change can be seen as a positive opportunity. There is always something beneficial that can come from a new experience. Begin keeping a written record writing down 3 things, either small or large, for which you are grateful. When you lead with gratitude, you notice more positivity in your new aspect of life.

7. Create SMART goals
This will help you guide the transition or change in a conscious way by helping you make the change and recognize the positives and success that come from the change.

1) S: Specific
2) M: Measurable
3) A: Achievable
4) R: Realistic
5) T: Time-bound

8. Realize this is an old/new chapter in your life
Acknowledging your change or loss is a good thing, but don't dwell on it or get stuck in the past. The best thing to do is look forward to beginning your new chapter and having a fresh start. While the specifics of the change or transition may be new, the general process is not. You have previously made other transitions or changes like changing schools, neighborhoods, relationships, or jobs. You have acquired the skills and experience needed to get through this, and this time you can do even better than before.

9. Be realistic in your expectations and with timeframes
You may second guess yourself or wonder if you should have not made the transition or change you are experiencing. However, becoming comfortable and confident with new things takes time, whether months or years, your change or transition will become natural again.

10. Take it one day at a time
If you begin feeling overwhelmed about the change or transition you are experiencing, remember to take things one step and one day at a time. You can do anything for five minutes, a few hours, or one day by setting small and attainable goals for yourself. Learning to live in the now and not dwell on the past will make the challenges that come with transitions and change seem much more manageable.

An ending is the catalyst for a new beginning. In order to fully engage in new beginnings, we must attempt to end well. The "successful" attempts to end well involve being mindful of the impacts transitions can have on us and being kind to ourselves in the midst of change.

The 10 helpful tools were taken from the following citations:
#1-5 http://www.wikihow.com/Deal-with-Change
#6-7 http://www.positive-changes-coach.com/how-to-deal-with-change.html
#8-9 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fixing-families/201307/keys-handling-lifes-transitions
#10 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/11/life-changes-5-tips-for-g_n_2272378.html

For more tips, visit the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board.

By Shawn Whitney
Shawn Whitney, MS, LMFT, S-PSB is the Assistant Director for the Center for Family and Couple Therapy, part of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program in the Colorado State University Department of Human Development and Family Studies. He is also the founder of Restoration Family Therapy, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and AAMFT approved supervisor.


Contact:  Stephanie Seng

Telephone:  (970) 491-5991

Email:  Stephanie.Seng@colostate.edu