Transitions and Adjustments During A Time of Uncertainty.
| By Ruth Mendelson, MSW, LCSW
A New Season in Life Can Feel Stressful
It is upon us, the end of summer. Undoubtedly a time when many of us reflect on upcoming changes. Maybe it’s that fresh chill in the air, the need for a light sweatshirt at night. Maybe our focus is on a new school year or business goals that are shifting. Fall brings a renewed sense of priorities and the first signs of its arrival can be felt as a mixture of emotions.
Change is in the air. You may be someone or have someone in your family who is about to embark on something new. Maybe you aren’t about to embark on something but are feeling nostalgia for a time in your life when that was the case.
Transitions and Adjustments Can Be Difficult
Transitions and adjustments are experiencing change and making modifications and adaptations to manage those changes as needed. They are significant in relation to wellbeing and mental health because they can have an impact on a person’s sense of belonging, confidence, self-esteem and levels of stress.
Throw in a backdrop of a global pandemic and you certainly have a recipe for navigating challenging terrain that has the potential to feel overwhelming. Add to that, the nagging uncertainty some of us are feeling about returning to full day in person learning in school, increases in time back to the office and changing guidance around mask-wearing and updates to vaccinations. This is all in the face of learning new information about a COVID variant, one might feel more than a little overwhelmed.
Below are some tips on how to handle the stress of the unknown during times of change. These suggestions are informed by a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach to managing transitions:
- Prepare as much as possible try to prepare for the transition (if you are helping to prep a child or teen, use age appropriate language and role play)
- When possible, set expectations that can be met (during times of change and uncertainty it can help to alleviate unnecessary pressure, setting reasonable expectations rather than lofty goals is a helpful way to handle change)
- Implement a routine when you can. This is linked to the idea of managing expectations and it can be very helpful to have some sense of consistency and structure during times of transition
- Practice Self-Talk. Self-Talk is the concept of having a motto or mantra (or several) that you can utilize to get you through times of change, stress and anxiety, depression, etc. The key is saying this mantra out loud. Connecting to the words and the message can be grounding, encouraging and soothing.
- Stay Connected to friends and family that are supportive. That’s key, you want to lean on and connect to others that you know you can count on. If you are lacking a support network, how do you build one? Is there a support group you can join? (Refer to the end of this post for more resources)
- Self-Compassion. In its most simple definition, this is being kind to yourself. This is at the heart of times of transition: remembering you have gone through changes and adjustments before and have gotten to the other side. Be gracious and kind to yourself. Sometimes it helps to talk to yourself the way you would encourage a dear friend or loved one. It can be surprising the amount of compassion we show to others can outweigh what we show ourselves.
Remember You CAN Course Correct
Anticipation and concern about how a new experience is going to turn out is a big source of anxiety for so many people. Struggling with feelings and challenges of anxiety related to something pending in the future can be difficult to varying degrees depending on multiple factors.
The reminder above (you CAN course correct) is simple yet powerful. So many of us have strong problem-solving and troubleshooting skills. When faced in the moment with how to handle unexpected situations and circumstances, we figure it out. This is vital to remember in the anticipation of transitions. You have managed obstacles, barriers and challenges before. You are likely going to be able to do it again. Life has unexpected twists and turns and having the skills and confidence to accept and address this truth is a helpful way to manage stress and alleviate anxiety related to transitions and adjustments.
If you are struggling to manage adjustments and transitions, please reach out. If you want to learn more about tools that can help you navigate change, a licensed therapist or counselor can support you with your goals.
Ruth enjoys spending time with her family, friends and dog. She loves to cook, spend time outdoors and go to the beach (even when it’s cold outside).
Check out Ruth’s professional bio here!
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Next Steps & Resources
- Are you ready to take your first step? Reach out to us.
- Do you feel that you or your child or teen may benefit from counseling during this time? Take the first step.
- Interested in online counseling? Learn more.
For more tips about navigating transitions, learn here.