Given my current state of flux (4 days till baby is due and counting!), in this month’s ezine, I thought I would share some tips for getting through the rough, uncomfortable part of major life transitions. It can be a disorienting time, but it has its upsides too!
Here is the article:
These days, life doesn’t stay static for very long. It seems like as soon as you get comfortable with where you are that things change and you are forced to adapt your schedule, your finances or your emotions.
- Losing your job
- Getting married
- Having a baby
- Death of a loved one
- Leaving a long-term relationship
- Seeing your last kid off to college
- Going from employee to entrepreneur
Some of you may have chuckled as you saw I included "positive" events like marriage and the birth of children as having awkward, painful or even depressive emotional side effects. The interesting thing is that no matter what the ultimate benefit of a change, going from "what was" to "what will be" can be very unsettling.
- Low energy
- Increased awareness of aches and pains
- Heaviness in chest or pit in stomach
- Light headedness
- Inability to concentrate
- Fluctuating emotions: happy and positive one day, negative and depressed the next
- Crankiness (just ask my husband about this, when the transition is pregnancy, and you have the added benefit of raging hormones in a time of great personal transition)
- What is wrong with me?
- Why can’t I just get it together and move on?
- Why is it so hard to get things done right now?
- Will I ever go back to feeling like my "old self?"
- Embrace it. Instead of asking yourself "When am I going to get back to normal?", be thankful that you are given an opportunity to reflect on your life and possibly come out with a new, improved, emotionally healthier you. You may not want to do this in public, but repeat the mantra "uncertainty is powerful and liberating!" as often as you can, and you may just begin to believe it.
- Carve out quiet, reflective time. I find that people who are in the midst of a career change feel extremely guilty for taking any time off between the "old gig" and the new. But in fact, if you don’t take some time off between endeavors, you are much more likely to either choose the wrong vocation, or find yourself just as frustrated in your new situation as you were in your old one. So don’t beat yourself up if you feel the need to just space out, take long walks, or cook good meals.
- Do something creative. If you are a frustrated artist, now is the perfect time to break out your paints, or clay, or camera, and engage your creative senses. You want to be more in a state of feeling rather than thinking, and creative pursuits are great for that.
- Ask yourself "What am I afraid of?" Your fears hold lots of information which can shape your new life. If you are getting married, you may fear losing your independence, or your prized Hot Car collection, or your sense of spontaneous passion. Don’t choke down these fears, look at them closely and use them as the basis for good, healthy discussion with your spouse-to-be about how you can design a life to incorporate the things that are important to both of you.
- "Try on" different scenarios that don’t fit the "old" you. When you are working full-time as an employee, or raising teenagers, or whatever your "old life" consisted of, you can get set in a certain persona. As you leave your familiar role ("I am the ultimate mother figure to my kids whose primary goal is to support and nurture") and move towards your uncertain future role, try on some new, totally different scenarios ("I am a wanderlust-filled traveller whose only thought is how to indulge my every whim, dance on tabletops and eat exotic food.") You may just find that the person you once were, or always wanted to be, is just waiting for you to step into her shoes.
- Tune up your health. When I went through a slow period in my consulting business a couple of years ago, I used the free time as a way to get back into working out. I took up yoga, pilates and kickboxing, dropped 20 pounds and found that my overall emotional well-being skyrocketed. A time of great personal transition is NOT the time to indulge in drugs or alcohol as it will only drown out your creative voice and reinforce feelings of fear and anxiety when you wake up next to your empty tequila bottle. Instead, eat healthily, exercise and breathe in as much clean air as you can and you will find that peace and clarity emerges from deep within.
- Cut back on obligations to ensure alone time. You want to reduce as many obligations as you can so that your primary focus is yourself. So just because you don’t have a "day job" anymore, don’t volunteer to chair the holiday food drive at your local shelter, or to watch the neighbor’s 3-year old quadruplets. Once you are clear and moving in your new life, you can train for sainthood on earth again. For now, clean out the lint from your own bellybutton.
- Clear out clutter. A period of transition is a great time to clear out junk, boxes, papers, pictures, old clothes, moldy food from the back of your refrigerator and expired cans from the pantry. A clean environment really does contribute to a clean mind. I am also a big fan of rearranging furniture since it will get you comfortable with seeing familiar things in a new and different way.
The last thought I want to leave you with is don’t rush through the neutral zone. If you utilize some of these strategies and engage your creativity, you will know when it is time to stop navel-gazing and get busy with your new plans. Your "new improved you" will thank yourself for it!
Please share what you have learned about slowing down and savoring your changes!