Life Transitions: Reflections, the Future, and Uncertainty, Oh My!

Life Transitions: Progress Wellness

And, just like that, it's June. The tulips are out, the sun is (hopefully) shining, and the scent of summer is in the air. You know what else spring and summer are good for?

Life transitions! Hooray! … Right?

If you’re a student, you might have just graduated, be heading to graduate school, be preparing to study abroad, or be packing up to head home after a year away on your own for the first time. Or perhaps you are looking for a new job, are newly single, or are reaching a milestone birthday. These are just some examples of big life transitions. These moments can cause excitement, fear, and uncertainty, all rolled up into one big, lovely package.

OK, so maybe it doesn’t sound so lovely. But there are ways for us to manage what may feel like the intolerable uncertainty of life transitions.

Of course, we can’t control uncertainty. In fact, the more one tries to control or avoid uncertainty, the more anxious one becomes. And let me just remind you of something that might stir the pot a bit: In the end, everything is uncertain.

That’s why we have to learn to control our feelings about uncertainty. In particular, how can we cope with the uncertainty that comes along with life transitions?

Here are two strategies you can try to help you embrace the uncertainty of transitional times, to accept and maybe even look forward to what comes next.

1). Reflect: It’s important to periodically reflect on how far we have come so we can appreciate all the hard work we did to get to this very point in time. We so often just rush through to the next thing that we don't even pay attention to the work involved. And by work, I mean both the ups and downs: the heartaches, the disappointments, the moments we asserted ourselves or negotiated, the times we took a stand for something that was important to us.  

All this work is worth noticing. If we can spend time reflecting, we can start to appreciate all that we’ve been through, and we may finally embrace the idea that, no matter what, we will learn from whatever comes next. That realization can help release some anxiety about the unknown. So make sure to develop your reflection skills!

2). Make a List: Make a short list of tasks you can do to help move through your life transition. The goal of this strategy is to break the transition into smaller increments instead of looking at it as one big thing.

Keep your initial list short: As you check off your first few items, add another few. Slivering things down can help us stay present, manage our anxiety, and give us tangible evidence that we are moving forward. For example, if you are anxious about finding a new job, think about the first three items you want to tackle. They could be revising your resume, asking two friends to read your resume and give you feedback, and choosing three people to network with.
After checking off those items, you could add finalizing your resume, starting your cover letter drafts, and emailing the three people who you chose to network with. Taking the “slivers, not chunks” approach can help us manage not knowing what comes next. And hopefully, by conquering each individual step, you may also start enjoying the journey.  
Remember: You’ve got this!