Managing the Stress of Life's Transitions

Health Writer

Life is full of transitions. Some of these are a normal part of your life, such as getting married, buying a home, a child going off to school, a teenager heading off to college or simply growing older. But sometimes life throws in forced transitions: death, divorce, losing a job, health problems, having to care for a sick or elderly relative. While all transitions can be stressful, the unplanned ones tend to cause the most stress, leaving us feeling unprepared for what is to come, frightened or vulnerable.

The stress of these situations can lead to feelings of anxiety, sometimes leaving us feeling overwhelmed. You may worry about what is to come and whether you will be able to handle the changes in your life. But with work, you can manage life's transitions, both good and bad.

The following are some ways you can help to manage transitions:

Cry. Health Pro Jerry Kennard previously wrote a post on the benefits of crying. According to the post, once you stop crying, your body moves into a more relaxed state. It also helps to "act as a kind of transition point between feeling upset or sad and feeling better and more positive." So, if you are feeling stressed over what life has thrown at you, sit down and have a good cry.

Remember that "this too shall pass." When you are in a stressful situation if feels as if it will never end, that you will never feel better. But take a moment to look back on previous stressful situations in your life. Somehow, you made it through those and you will make it through this one too. Keeping in mind that the stress you feel is temporary can help.

Think about what helped you before. When going through previous transitions, what did you do? Did you rely on friends? Did you talk with a therapist? Did you keep yourself busy? Did you keep a positive attitude? The same strengths that helped you get through tough times before can help you now.

Lean on others. Do you have friends and relatives that can help you during this transition? While we all want to believe we can make it on our own, there are times in life when you need to lean on your friends. Don't feel embarrassed; instead reach out to those in your life that can help you. There are support groups around for many different situations, check your local area to see if there is a support group for your situation that you can attend. Talking with others going through the same thing often helps. If you don't have a support system or if you feel you need additional help, talk with a therapist.

Look at the transition as an opportunity for new experiences. When our comfortable life is disrupted, we feel disoriented and out of place. Focusing on these feelings can make you feel even more anxious. Instead, write down how this transition could lead to new experiences that may be beneficial to your life. Whenever you are feeling anxious, read your statement and try to change your focus from apprehension to one of looking forward to what is new and exciting.

Allow yourself to be angry, sad, lost, scared. Instead of fighting what you are feeling, acknowledge how you feel and accept that this is a part of the transition. Don't focus on what you "should" be feeling, rather, allow yourself your feelings. You may want to start a journal of your feelings; this sometimes helps you explore how you feel and come to terms with it.

Remember that it takes courage to go through transitions. No matter what your life situation is, remind yourself that it takes courage and strength to make it through and each moment that you continue to move forward is a testament to your strength.

Think about the good way the situation could end. Chances are, if you are feeling anxious, you are focusing on the worst possible outcome. Write down all the beneficial ways it may end and remind yourself of these every time you begin to ruminate.

If, no matter what you try, you still can't manage to control your feelings of anxiety and stress, talk with a professional. Living with long-term stress can impact your physical and emotional health. Your doctor or therapist should be able to give you additional ideas for managing anxiety due to transitions.

This post was written based on my own personal experiences and includes ideas I have used and those supplied to me by others during difficult transitions in my life.