When Marina decided to go back to school, things changed dramatically in her family. Her teenage sons were given more household responsibility, charged with making dinner and picking up their younger sister from soccer practice. Her husband helped her out by taking over the laundry and making sure she had enough quiet time for homework. Of course, to her friends the transition to part-time student seemed seamless, but as Marina and her family will tell you, there were plenty of wrinkles to iron out.
If you think a transition like Marina’s is something you couldn’t handle, think again. Learning to cope with change—whether it is a career move, an illness in the family or a newly emptied nest—takes practice, but it can be done.
Even good change can cause stress. For example, your daughter’s acceptance into the college of her choice, while positive news, may upset you because it means financial sacrifice and coping with her absence. However, the faster you acknowledge and identify the source of your anxiety, the sooner you’ll be able to deal with it.
If unexplained stress has been bothering you for a while, try to remember when you first noticed the unease. Did anything happen to possibly trigger your anxiety? For example, maybe you’ve been on edge because your new appointment as chairperson of the community center’s annual fundraiser hasn’t allowed you time to attend your yoga class. In that case, you may need to reevaluate your priorities. Perhaps someone else can run the Saturday morning meeting so you’ll have more time for yoga.
It’s normal to feel frustrated when life takes a left turn. The key to getting back on track is to see change as a challenge, not an obstacle. Your boss wasn’t out to get you when she put you in charge of the company’s big project. She trusted your abilities to get the job done. So now it’s your turn to do the same.
Try viewing change as a chance to grow and learn. For example, a move to a new house in a new town is a big adjustment. Instead of focusing on the separation from your current community, think of the move as an opportunity to widen your social circle.
New things don’t have to feel natural right away. A period of adjustment is normal and necessary, so don’t pressure yourself to get with the program instantly. However, while you are dealing with the transition, take time to monitor how well you are coping. Can you do anything to help make the change go more smoothly?
Some kinds of transitions may require special attention. For example, if you are dealing with the loss of a loved one or are struggling with an illness, you may find comfort in a support group. Or perhaps a counselor can help ease you through a particularly difficult life change. Talk to your healthcare provider if you feel you need help.