Change. Some people welcome it, but the majority of people hate it. I hate to break it to you, but you just have to learn how to deal with it because change is part of life.
Whether it’s dealing with a break up, graduating from high school, going away to college, moving away, or any of the major life transitions that we go through, it can make you feel confused, lost, afraid…alone. When life forces you out of your comfort zone, you need all the help you can get to get back on track.
Although you might not have a lot of control over what is going on in your life, you always have control over your reactions and attitude. Here are some tips that I hope will make this time a bit more bearable for you.
Take care of yourself physically.
The first thing to do is make sure you take care of your physical health. If you physically feel like crap, you can care less about anything else because you don’t have the energy. When we’re under a lot of stress, our nervous system is a little out of wack. You might feel on edge and your sleep patterns can change.
You want to drink plenty of water and rest your body. If you can take a short nap great, but it can also be relaxing listening to music or watching an episode of your favorite Netflix show. The point is to let your body relax as much as you can.
Also try eating healthy foods. When people are stressed they tend to go for foods high in sugar. Try to eat foods that give you energy such as nuts, whole grains, and veggies.
With taking care of yourself also comes Exercise. I know, I know, some people get tired just thinking about exercise. But it doesn’t always mean hitting the gym. Go for a walk outside, dance, stretch your body, follow a YouTube video to practice yoga, play tennis, ride a bike, etc. The point is to get your body moving. Being under a lot of stress during this time is going to build a lot of tension in your body so doing something physical will release that tension.
Look at past evidence.
We are always going through some type of transition in our lives. It’s those big ones though that we remember. Think back to another time in your life that you went through a similar change. If you’re nervous about starting high school, remember how you felt when you were starting middle school. If you’re going away to college think back to the first time you were away from home like going to camp or remember how nervous you were about starting high school. The circumstances may be different, but the feelings are very similar, maybe even the same. Remember a time you survived something in your life that you thought you were not going to get through. When you were also feeling afraid, anxious, sad, and hopeless. What did you do to survive it? The fact that you’re here now is proof that you did survive it. So you can also get through what you’re living now.
Surround yourself with supportive people.
During these times you need a good support system. But be careful because some people, who are well meaning, give horrible advice. Like when your girlfriends tell you to egg the house of the boy who just broke up with you.
You want to be around people who will reassure you, help you laugh and relax. People who you trust and feel comfortable with. Transitions are an emotional time. You want to be around people who uplift your energy, not drain it. If you feel that you don’t have anyone in your life who is supportive, watch motivational speakers on YouTube. There are also a lot of books about going through transitions. Some of my own favorite speakers/authors are Les Brown, John Maxwell, and Tony Robbins.
Don’t focus on the negatives.
It’s natural to focus on the bad side of change. Going away to college means you don’t know anyone there. And it also means being away from family. However, it also means not having to see people you didn’t like in high school anymore, and making new, like minded friends. And also going away changes the dynamics between you and your parents. Typically for the better.
Ask yourself, what good can come from this life change? Sometimes we can’t see it until things have settled down.
Remember that there are always two sides to everything. Focus on the things that you can control. After you focus on the things you can control, take a step back and ask yourself “what can I do that would make me feel better?” “What action step can I take to be more clear?” It can be anything from creating a To-Do list to organize your thoughts, or reaching out to a supportive person. The point is you’re doing something.
I always remind my clients that it’s IMPOSSIBLE to think about two things at the same EXACT time. We have thoughts back to back and really fast sometimes, but not at the same time. So, try paying attention to what you’re doing. Be very mindful through out the day. Even if it’s 5 minutes here, and minutes there. For example, pay attention to your breathing, notice how your chest rises and sinks as you breath in and out. Or pay attention to how your feet hit the ground as you walk.
If your mind just won’t be quiet, try asking yourself “I wonder what my next thought is going to be.” For a few seconds, you stop thinking because you’re now paying attention to thinking. It takes practice to keep that silence for a long time, but it’s a nice break when your mind is racing.
The point is that if you’re focusing on what is going on at this very moment, you shouldn’t be feeling anxious or stressed thinking about the “what ifs.” Take things 10 minutes at a time, and try to stay as present as you can.
Going through life transitions really shakes us up and makes us doubt ourselves. Just remember that we can’t really grow as a person unless we get out of our comfort zone. Some of the most successful people put themselves in situations out of their comfort zones on purpose because they know that that’s how they can grow as a person.
As you’re in the middle of your life transition, do some of the things I have suggested here. You are stronger than you think. You will get through this.
“Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.” -Nikos Kazantzakis
About the author
Liza J Alvarado is a professional counselor in private practice. She serves Adolescents, young adults, and Spanish speaking families in the Lehigh Valley, PA area.