Managing Life Transitions

    Any significant loss makes most people feel fearful and anxious. Since your future may now be filled with questions, it is normal to feel afraid. We live in a culture that has taught us to be very uncomfortable with uncertainty, so we are anxious when our lives are disrupted. On the positive side, these transitions give us a chance to learn about our strengths and to explore what we really want out of life. This time of reflection can result in a sense of renewal, stability, and a new equilibrium.

    A life transition can be positive or negative, planned or unexpected. Whether positive or negative, life transitions cause us to leave behind the familiar and force us to adjust to new ways of living, at least temporarily. They can leave us feeling completely unprepared and we may be thrown into a personal crisis, feeling shocked, angry, sad, and withdrawn.

Examples of Life Transitions

Life transitions can include any of the following:
    Accidents
    Changing jobs
    Divorce
    Getting married
    Having a baby
    Serious illness

Stages of Life Transitions
Successfully moving through a life transition usually means experiencing the following stages:
  1. Experience a range of negative feelings (anger, anxiety, confusion, numbness)
  2. Feel a loss of self-esteem..
  3. Begin to accept the change.
  4. Acknowledge that you need to let go of the past and accept the future.
  5. Begin to feel hopeful about the future.
  6. Feel increased self-esteem.
  7. Develop an optimistic view of the future.
The process of moving through a transition does not always proceed in order, in these nice, predictable stages. People usually move through the process in different ways, often cycling back and forth among the stages.
Coping Skills
Life transitions are often difficult, but they have a positive side, too. They provide us with an opportunity to assess the direction our lives are taking. They are a chance to grow and learn.
Here are some ideas that may help make the process rewarding.
Expect to feel uncomfortable. A time of transition is confusing and disorienting. It is normal to feel insecure and anxious. These feelings are part of the process, and they will pass.
Take good care of yourself. Transitions are very stressful, even if they are supposed to be happy times. You may not feel well enough to participate in your normal activities. Find something fun to do for yourself each day. Get plenty of rest, exercise, and eat well.
Build your support system. Seek the support of friends and family members, especially those who accept you without judging you and encourage you to express your true feelings. A time of transition is also an excellent time to seek the support of a mental health professional to assist with the process in a safe and support environment.
Identify your values and life goals. If a person knows who they are and what they want from life, they may see the change as just another life challenge. These people are willing to take responsibility for their actions and do not blame others for the changes that come along without warning.
Learn to identify and express your feelings. While it is normal to try to push away feelings of fear and anxiety, you will move through them more quickly if you acknowledge them. Make them real by writing them down and talking about them with trusted friends and family members. These feelings will have less power over you if you face them and express them.
Copyright © 2007. Connie Knox All Rights Reserved     |     (636) 928-8505      |     60 Gailwood Dr. Suite C, St. Peters MO 63376
td> Disconnecting from technology can lead to reconnecting with your companions, as Pablo Miranda of Stillwater, Minn., discovered on a recent family camping trip in Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park. He, his two ¬teenaged children, his girlfriend and seven of her family members boated to the remote lake-island campsite, leaving behind video games, cell phones and iPods.

“Normally I have to text my 17-year-old daughter to communicate with her,” says Miranda, 43, who owns a house-painting business and is a world-music DJ. In the Boundary Waters Wilderness, where there’s no electricity or running water, the whole family had meaningful conversations, especially around the nightly campfire. They also snorkeled, canoed from island to island, captured crawdads and played card games — with no other humans for miles. “My kids won’t admit it, but I think they were actually relieved not having to stay in the loop with their friends,” he says.

Miranda observed how the family adapted to ¬living outdoors: going to bed at nightfall, sheltering from the rain, timing the day’s first swim when the sun warmed the water. “Life quickly centered around nature instead of the TV or talking on the phone,” he says. “It reminded me of the value of being present with each other. Catching and cooking a northern pike together is a memory my kids will always remember.”

The Sound of Silence Want to really detach from the outside world? A ¬meditation retreat is the ultimate unplugged experience. Rebecca Wachtel, 33, a film and television makeup artist, found that a silent meditation retreat in northern New Mexico’s mountains was the perfect antidote to her high-speed Los Angeles life.

“Like a lot of people, I spend mindless hours on the computer,” Wachtel says. So when she learned of the 10-day retreat, held in silence except for nightly talks by the teachers, she knew it was an opportunity to turn off the tech and focus on spiritual work.

Solar-powered Vallecitos Mountain Refuge — located amid thousands of acres of national forest where there’s no cell-phone reception — became a place for Wachtel to cultivate mindfulness. “We have the illusion that we can hear, see and feel all at once,” she says. “If you pay attention, though, you realize your senses only work well one at a time.”

On hikes through the forest, for example, Wachtel’s senses were so heightened that she noticed the subtleties around her, like the sound of wind in the aspens. “This retreat put me into a quiet space — a state that’s ingrained in all humans — in which I was in tune with nature.”

Months later, Wachtel says she still benefits from the meditation retreat. “Now when I take a break from work, I go outside, look at the sky, and pay attention to the simplicity around me. Taking that mental vacation from my BlackBerry is freeing and helps me be more connected to the world and free from the stress of the mind.”

The Before Your Disconnect

Take these steps to alleviate any pangs of guilt (or anxiety) you might have about unplugging from the office:

By Laurel Kallenbach/ March 2010/ Experience Life Magazine Copyright © 2007. Connie Knox All Rights Reserved     |     (636) 928-8505      |     60 Gailwood Dr. Suite C, St. Peters MO 63376