Managing Life Transitions
The Challenge of Navigating Change
Few of us have life paths that are straight shots from here to there. Most paths have twists and turns that require us to turn off auto-pilot and fine tune our navigational skills. We are called upon to read a new map, to adjust to new situations. This happens whether changes appear out of the blue or whether they are predictable and expected. When the landscape is altered, we find ourselves orienting to new directions and working hard to find our bearings.
We know that change is an inevitable part of life, yet most often, we just don’t like it. Even when we welcome new circumstances, see them as helpful to us, or view them as a natural progression of life, transitions are still stressful for us. This is even more the case when the shifts are sudden, unexpected, or unwelcome, rocking the earth beneath our feet. At times like this, we may deeply struggle because our situations don’t match the way we thought our lives would be.
Transitions can be expected or unexpected, welcomed or unwelcomed, chosen or imposed, sudden or gradual, within us or outside of us. They can be physical, emotional, and even spiritual.
Our natural tendency is to resist change in our routines, our ideas, our ways of living. We can feel unsettled, challenged, even threatened, by transitions that take us away from the familiar. We may feel overwhelmed, stressed, disillusioned, or angry. We may blame ourselves for situations that are out of our control. We may become anxious or depressed. And when dealing with unwelcomed change, we may be asking those tough questions that have no satisfactory answers, such as “Why me?” “Why this?” “Why now?” Transitions alter our lives; at times we are able to adjust with minimal effort while at other times we find ourselves protesting, unable to accept the changes that have come our way. As happens with many, we sometimes get stuck at these transition points in our lives. At times, we may turn to ways of coping that are not helpful and that can bring us harm.
Some examples of transitions that can be challenging during our lives include:
- Growing up and moving away from home
- Adjustment to college or the workplace
- Remaining single
- Becoming a couple
- Arrival of a new baby
- Parenting an infant, child, or adolescent
- Experiencing an empty nest
- Divorce or separation
- Becoming a blended family
- Recovery from marital infidelity
- Job loss
- Career change—forced or chosen
- Recreating oneself in adulthood
- Pursuit of further education/career development as a mature adult
- Relocation of household
- Loss of significant friendship(s) or peer group at any age
- Change of social status
- Loss of social structure and life’s routines
- Being out of sync with our peer group’s life experiences
- Financial gain or loss
- Serious illness or disability of self, a child, a spouse, a loved one
- Issues of ageing
- Death of a loved one
- Exploring and questioning life meaning and purpose
- Exploring and questioning matters of faith
Has a twist in the road caught you by surprise? Are you struggling with adjusting to a change of direction? Is where you find yourself now not at all similar to the dreams you once had for your life? Could you or someone you know benefit from some compassion for the adjustments you are working through? Would it be helpful to have someone hear your story about how you are working to make sense of the bend in your path? If so, please contact me.
In the meantime, it may be helpful to remember that all life paths have twists and turns and to realize that no one can escape change. Some of these changes can be deeply challenging. Everyone, at times, needs some help reading an unfamiliar map and navigating new territory.