Spring has sprung! Considering this transition of seasons, what better time to share on the topic of life transitions.
What are life transitions?
Life transitions are periods of life where you're experiencing change in your lifestyle [or life in general]. You might notice heightened stress and anxiety, changes in mood, feeling unsettled, or changes in eating and sleep patterns during these times. Merriam (2005) has named four broad categories of life transitions, as the following:
- Anticipated life transitions are ones that you have known about (anticipated) and likely had the chance to prepare for in some way.
- Having a baby
- Career change
- Loss of a loved one
- Loss of a loved one to Alzheimer's disease or dementia
- Living independently for the first time
- Empty nest
- Unanticipated life transitions are those that came about unexpectedly, whether pleasant or unpleasant in nature.
- Unexpected pregnancy
- Loss of a loved one
- Traumatic event
- Winning the lottery
- Job loss
- Physical injury
- A non-event life transition is when an anticipated transition does not happen.
- Trying for pregnancy without result
- Expecting a promotion that you do not get
- Planning for a wedding that does not happen
- Not getting into any university that was applied to
- A sleeper life transition is one that occurs subtly and over time without necessarily having conscious awareness of it.
- Becoming an expert in your field of study
- Having enough savings for retirement
- Developing health conditions from unhealthy habits
- Becoming distant from friends
Take a moment to reflect on your past, current, or upcoming life transitions. What have you noticed about your experience? What could have been useful to you during past life transitions? What words of wisdom from past transitions can you offer yourself for current/upcoming transitions?
As mentioned above, it's normal to feel a little 'off' or unsettled during these times. Anchors are helpful tools to weather you through any emotional storm when you're lost at sea.
Finding Your Anchors Through Life Transitions
What are anchors?
An "anchor" is a metaphorical term to describe the reminders we put in place about what matters most to us, particularly when we feel conflicted or lost in how to navigate a challenge. Turning towards your values is usually a good place to start to determine what your anchors might be.
Examples of anchors:
- Value: Health (mental and physical)
- Anchor: focusing on eating nutritious meals and moving your body daily
- Value: Learning
- Anchor: educating yourself with relevant books, reading material, or sign up for an online course
- Value: Stability
- Anchor: let the noise settle and refocus on establishing small daily routines that are within your control (i.e., consistent wake and bedtime, skincare, breakfast, walk, mindset journaling)
- Value: Kindness
- Anchor: focus on being kind to yourself, make eye contact and smile at strangers, hold the door open for someone, give someone a compliment, tell someone what they mean to you
- Value: Acceptance
- Anchor: acknowledge inner struggle/conflict, remind yourself why dropping the struggle is needed, and remind yourself of what matters most to you
- Value: Compassion
- Anchor: give yourself grace, patience, and understanding, while holding yourself accountable to taking care of your basic needs
- Value: Challenge
- Anchor: choose a challenge or goal that you can see tangible progress in (i.e. paint a picture, learn the splits, read X number of books by a certain date)
Additional avenues for helping yourself through a transition includes talking about it with your support systems: friends, family, therapist, supervisor, or coach.
While some discomfort is to be expected with change, transitions are also an opportunity for significant growth and personal development.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pieces of pottery back together with gold. It's a metaphor for embracing flaws and imperfections and acknowledging that even after breaking, you can rebuild even more beautiful than before.
You tend to build self-efficacy and a sense of confidence that you can handle hard things when you're faced with a challenge, conscious about your experiences throughout, and intentional and mindful about how you respond to them. It's an opportunity to look inwards and say to yourself, "Okay, let's take agency in how we confront this and move through it. Let's show up for ourself." Sometimes the meaning and growth isn't evident to you until years later - and that's okay.
All you can ever do is the best you can with what you know now.
Disclaimer: This blog is for general information purposes only and does not constitute the practice of professional healthcare services, including the giving of medical advice. The use of information on this blog or materials linked from this blog is at the users' own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to substitute for psychotherapy or professional medical advice or treatment. Users should not delay from seeking medical advice for any medical condition they may have and should seek the assistance of a healthcare professional for any such conditions.
- Brown, G. (n.d.). Understanding the four types of life transition. Gemma Brown Coaching. Retrieved from: https://www.gemmabrowncoaching.co.uk/post/understanding-life-transitions#:~:text=Merriam%20(2005)%20talks%20about%204,other%20areas%20of%20your%20life
- Merriam, S. B. (2005). How adult life transitions foster learning and development. Wiley Online Library. https://doi.org/10.1002/ace.193