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Navigating Life's Transitions

by Tara Chandler

0316451001602092747.jpgCollege, a new job, a new home, divorce, a lawsuit, an inheritance, a life-threatening illness, or the death of a loved one, these are all significant life transitions that cause both elating joy and deep sadness.  These types of life transitions are some of the highest-ranking stressors on the Life Index Stress Scale, which is a scale created to measure common human experiences.  The scale measures experiences on a 1-100 scale taking into consideration numerous different factors that contribute to the overall stressfulness of an experience.  On this scale, a change in living space scores at a 20, a pregnancy scores a 40, a marriage scores a 50, and the death of a spouse scores the highest ranking of 100.  With current divorce rates somewhere between 20% and 50% of all married American couples, chances are that a significant number of individual men and women have experienced at least these two significant stressors. 

No matter what the specific transition is, often there is a great deal of anticipation, anxiety, negotiation, renegotiation, and eventually acceptance around the transition.  Often in working with transitions, the anticipation of the actual transition can be the most difficult part.  It is the anticipation of the unknown.  How will I deal with this change?  What if I do not handle it gracefully?  What if I am judged?  What if I lose myself in this change?  As individuals, we often spend a great deal of time worrying about things we cannot ultimately control. 

How do we navigate these stressful life transitions?  How do we control the anxiety associated with the unknown?  Often the answer is simple...we recognize we cannot control them.  

The harder we try to control them, the more likely we are to feel powerless over them.  

One particularly effective strategy to counteract this powerless feeling is to construct a small team of trusted individuals to help you through the transition.  Regardless of whether they help you with logistical tasks or emotional tasks, having someone to lean on can be priceless.  If you do not have the possibility of a team, consider using emotion tracking to figure out when you are experiencing anxiety or depression and this can help you to make more clear decisions.  When in a state of stress, we often make emotion-based decisions which don’t always give us the best outcomes.  If you find making decisions from a less emotional place difficult, consider seeking professional help to support you through the duration of the transition. 

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