Dealing with life transitions can be challenging, but there are ways to make the process easier, such as prioritizing self-care or journaling.
Any change or new adjustment in life can feel scary and stressful. You may feel anxious because you have to start a new job or move to a new city.
When things change in your life, you may feel out of control because you weren’t expecting it. And now it’s going to impact your life in a significant way.
It’s OK to feel a sense of unease during these times. Learning how to cope with these transition periods and the anxiety that surrounds them can help you learn to better adapt when change comes throughout your life.
Transition anxiety, also referred to as change anxiety, is when you have feelings of stress or worry surrounding a profound change in your life, says Holly Schiff, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York and Connecticut.
This transition can be on a large scale, such as getting a divorce, or on a small scale, which may include anything you’re used to regularly doing but are no longer doing anymore.
Dealing with change requires you to find a new way of doing things; according to a 2012 literature review, you’re conditioned to resist change.
“Most of us are creatures of habit, and so when there’s change, we get anxious or fearful, “says Nicole Sbordone, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based licensed clinical social worker.
Your usual routine gives you stability, and when that is replaced with the unknown and uncertainty, that’s when your anxiety tends to thrive, says Schiff.
Your brain wants a sense of comfort, and when you are in-between transitions, that can feel uncomfortable and provoke anxiety.
Transition anxiety in adults
Transition anxiety can manifest in adults through behavior such as:
- increased substance use
- difficulty sleeping
- withdrawing from others
Transition anxiety in children
Transition anxiety can manifest in children through behaviors such as:
- acting out in school or at home
- withdrawing from friends and family
- change in grades or eating habits
It takes time to adjust to life changes and transitions. If you’re going through a period of transition and are feeling anxious about it, use the following suggestions to help you feel more grounded.
Accept the transition
“Radical acceptance is a skill you will want to develop,” says Schiff. This will help you better understand what’s in your circle of control and what falls outside of that.
There’s a lot you can’t change, like the transition you are experiencing. But you can control your feelings and how you respond to those feelings.
Try to label or name the emotion you are feeling, says Schiff. This will help you create distance from your emotions so that you won’t feel consumed by them.
Sweat your feelings out
Getting your anxiety out physically can help you cope with life changes and transitions, explains Sbordone.
Engaging in self-care daily is important when it comes to helping you manage stress or anxiety. Make sure you’re eating and sleeping well. Take time to relax and do the things that you enjoy.
Schiff says this will help act as a buffer for any pressures or life stressors. It will also equip you to better cope and manage whatever comes your way.
Schiff says that taking the time to write your feelings out is a helpful coping skill that will help you process whatever you’re experiencing. It helps you shift your focus to the positive aspects of your life and recall things you’re grateful for.
Writing in a journal can prime you to deal with situations that require resilience, such as big transitions or change, explains Schiff.
By putting your thoughts on paper, you are staying in tune with your emotions which can help to relieve stress and anxiety and boost your mood.
Change can feel uncomfortable, especially during periods of transition when you may feel more anxious. It’s OK to feel a sense of discomfort during this time because, according to research, you’re conditioned to resist change.
Dealing with life’s transitions can cause anxiety because it requires you to get out of your comfort zone and find a new way of doing things.
If you’re going through a period of transition and feeling anxious about it, you can try the following to help you cope:
- accept change
- get regular exercise
- practice self-care
If you’re still having difficulty managing your anxiety during periods of transition in your life, consider talking with a mental health professional.