The Discomfort of Change: Transitional Anxiety and How to Cope

By Katie Hughes, RMHCI

Transitions are a natural part of the human experience. These transitions can occur at any time in a person’s life. For some people transitions come in the form of marriage or a new relationship. Others struggle with relationships ending. Common types of transitions also include:

  • Growing up and moving away from home
  • Adjustment to college or the workplace
  • Empty nesting
  • Divorce, separation, or recovery from infidelity
  • Retirement, job loss, or career changes
  • Issues of aging
  • Death of a loved one
  • Questioning faith or spirituality
  • Questioning sexual or gender identity

Many people experience an increase in anxiety when faced with major life change. While these are normal feelings, sometimes the transitional anxiety starts impacting a person’s daily life. Luckily there are some ways to lessen the stress that comes along with the challenging changes that life throws at us. Here are five tips to navigate transitional anxiety:

  1. Utilize Your Support System: Maintaining connection during a transitional period is essential since we often feel isolated during these stretches of time. Even if you’re just chatting about something lighthearted, talking with family and friends can ease the tension that is present during large life changes. This provides balance, support and feeling of community.
  2. Maintain Some Structure: Implementing some kind of routine into your daily life can help you feel more grounded during the adjustment period that follows a transition. This routine could take the shape of exercise, meditation, volunteering, consistent bedtime, podcasts, or something else. The key here is to remain consistent with your newly made routine in order to reap the benefits. Start with something very smart to set yourself up for success.
  3. Practice Self-Care: While having time to connect with other people is beneficial during a time of transition, spending time with yourself is also critical. Find ways to take care of yourself during this rough patch, whether that is reading a book or walking around a park. Putting yourself first allows yourself the space, time and emotional and physical energy to navigate this time of transition.
  4. Don’t Shut Down Your Emotions: Sitting in an uncomfortable emotional state is never a fun thing to do, but there are times in life when it is necessary. Transitional periods bring up a variety of emotions such as happiness, fear, anger, uncertainty, and sadness. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions are coming up, regardless of if they are “good” or “bad” in the eyes of other people. It’s okay not to be okay all of the time. Use this time to journal, ponder, or listen to music that helps you understand your experience.
  5. Take It One Step at a Time: Rushing the process of adapting to the new “normal” in your life may exacerbate feelings of anxiety. You may be asking yourself, “Why can’t I move on? Why can’t I just get over this?”, and this is natural. Give yourself some time to reflect on what has happened and plan out small steps to reach the place you want to be. Remain in the present moment and ask yourself, “What can I do right now to take care of myself?” If you set the goal of making 1% progress every day, you will navigate this change with more ease.

Transitions can make us feel we are alone in the world. Processing what has happened can alleviate your feeling of anxiety, and provide tools for you to use during future life transitions. If you find yourself benefiting from additional support or feeling stuck, counseling is an effective way to navigate change more easily. Call or text us today to start this process of feeling more support during this time of transition: 352-474-8882. We are located in Gainesville, Florida and provide individual, couples, family and group therapy.

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