Life is changing, or life is the same but you have changed. You have decided it is time, or the universe has shifted under foot. Whatever the cause — transition time is here (again). I have been through my share of transitions, some by choice, others by necessity. Beyond my own transitions I have spent my career working with children and families. For 20 years I worked as a mental health clinician for children and adolescents. The families I saw were in constant transition as they coped with children growing up, trauma, hard choices and life events. Transitions work out for the best when an individual (or family) has sufficient resilience to weather the changes.
It has always fascinated me that two people can go through similar life events and have very different outcomes. One of the keys to this is resilience which is both a personality trait and a skill set. I have had the opportunity to study this very intensely for the past two years. Resilience is both the ability to overcome bad things and the ability to continue to function well during difficult circumstances. I refer to these as the bounce and the trudge. It turns out we can become better at both.
Bounce tends to be more obvious and shorter lived. It often has a clear precipitating factor. One “bounces back” from a job loss, a death in the family, a sudden financial setback. This is not easy, but it is often feels less confusing.
Transition tends to be more about the “trudge” — continuing to move forward during difficult times. Those periods in life when you feel like life moves onward and onward with an unclear sense of upward. How do we stay resilient during a longer process? Here are some basics that I have found useful
Tell the truth (to yourself at least). This is hard. The end is not in sight, in fact you may not be sure what you want the end to be. Write in a journal, talk to a professional, and a few trusted friends. Clarify the truth about your difficulties, your needs, and your process.
Remember, you are not alone. Someone else has/is going through a very similar journey. Connect, reach out, ask for help and suggestions. Read. Pray.
Unpack your history. What did you love/hate at a different age or time in your life? How can you build more/less of that into your next step?
Decide which way you want the fear/excitement switch to be pointing. The tippy top of the roller coaster – fear/excitement. Your brain teeters on the edge of these two emotional states. Opportunities will come up that will have you right at that edge. Decide. If it is a bad idea, step away. If it is a good idea, but you are afraid — get excited. Move forward.
Go one step at a time. Once basic safety and day-to-day needs are met, take a break. This is not the time to blaze out or keep yourself busy with frantic activity that does not move you forward. Consider your next step(s). Pace yourself. Be patient with the process.
Energize yourself for the long run. Literally take care of your body as if you were preparing for a marathon. Eat healthy, exercise, breathe, stretch, hydrate. Take care of your specific needs. Floss. The science behind all this is so clear.
Transitions allow us to stretch and grow which is often uncomfortable and inconvenient. Old habits, ways of being, and even relationships may need to be discarded. New ideas and opportunities are just over the rise. Trudge on with hopeful anticipation. Grow your resilience.