The reality is that life is constantly changing, but our response to life transitions can determine the process and outcome. For example, how did you react when you changed jobs, married or divorced, moved away, had a baby, dropped your child off at college, or retired from work? Some transitions are voluntary and others involuntary. Look back on transition-making strengths you developed and ways in which you resisted change. Avoidance is a common way we refuse to accept a transition. Maybe you’re going through a life transition today and struggling to accept changes that are not within your control. What have been the hardest transitions for you?
Psychologists have researched the most stressful life changes and concluded that the top ten are: death of a spouse, divorce, marital separation, jail term, death of a close family member, major injury or illness, marriage, loss of job, marital reconciliation, and retirement. Transitions are difficult because they can shake your sense of identity and redefine your role in life. All transitions begin with an ending and sometimes we have a hard time letting go of the past. Saying goodbye to the old enables a person to embrace the new life changes. All change is stressful, even positive transitions. When we deal directly with our negative feelings associated with change we can expect to be successful at coping with life transitions.
Resilience is a valuable skill to help with adjusting to change. The serenity prayer from the 12 step program captures it best: “God grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The irony is that the one thing we cannot change, is change. Sometimes transitions involve major disruptions in routines and require a great deal of adjustment. Next week I will offer practical strategies to help us successfully manage transitions.