By Jennifer Hu
Change is a part of life. Some changes are positive on the surface, like graduating, starting a new job, getting engaged or married, having a new baby, or moving. Others are perceived as negative, like going through a breakup, losing your job, experiencing financial stress, or receiving a health diagnosis. Whether the change is positive or negative, navigating through life changes is not easy.
Transitions are hard!
Most of us would agree that navigating a negative life transition or change can be difficult. What’s surprising is that even good and positive changes can bring their own challenges as well. Moving to a new city, getting engaged, and graduating from college are exciting and typically thought of as positive life events, however, change also comes with its own consequences, like figuring out how to plan a wedding, getting used to a new apartment, or navigating adulthood after college ends. As you go through a life change, no matter how big or small, you might find yourself feeling unlike your usual self for a season, and that’s perfectly normal. The season of adjustment won’t last forever, and you’ll eventually find a new normal.
You might feel any of the following symptoms during a life transition:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite
- No longer enjoying activities or hobbies you used to enjoy
- Irritability towards loved ones and friends
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Depressed mood
- Feeling alone even when there are lots of people around you
- Difficulty connecting to others or not feeling close to anyone
How long will it take for life to feel normal again?
It typically takes at least three to six months after a major life change for life to feel normal again, depending on how much of an impact the change has had on you and what your coping skills and support system are like. The size of the impact is determined by how you feel about the change, and not how big or small of a change that others think the event was.
Once you feel more adjusted, it doesn’t mean that you will no longer experience any difficulty. It might mean that you have built new routines and have incorporated the change into your life. You have changed as your life around you has changed. The parts that once felt unfamiliar and foreign now feel like a regular part of your life.
What can help make the adjustment period easier?
Be extra patient, gentle, and kind with yourself. Understand that it will take time to adjust, and that it’s a process. Telling yourself that everything needs to feel better by a certain time frame may stand in the way of your progress. The process is not linear, and everyone adjusts at a different pace. Some days might feel better; other days you might feel like you haven’t made any forward movement. Slowly over time, you will hopefully begin to see that you have a new normal, and that you are all right.
Try to refrain from judging yourself and any emotions that come up. Thoughts like, “I should be happy,” or, “this should feel easier,” may come into your mind. What if you erased all “shoulds” and embraced the season of life you’re in now? What if you accepted all the feelings that come up instead of telling yourself to stop feeling that way? Something I like to tell myself in moments of transition and difficulty is that “this will not last forever.” The discomfort will not last forever, and you will feel like yourself again one day.
Focus on doing what worked for you in the past when everything felt normal. What activities were enjoyable or fun for you? Is it going on a walk? Listening to your favorite music? Cooking? Journaling? Watching your favorite TV show? Going back to what is familiar and comforting can help you as you navigate the changes in your life. Revisiting the coping skills that worked before can help calm your mind and body and be an anchor during an uncertain time.
Take care of your physical health. In the midst of a life transition, it can be easy to forget about basic needs like sleep and diet. As much as you can, try to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night and go to bed at the same time every night. Eat a balanced diet and find ways to move your body each day even if you don’t feel like it.
Reach out to someone you trust. Though you might feel a pull to isolate and distance yourself from others, reaching out to a friend or family member can provide social support that will help you weather the storms of change. Connecting to others can help us to feel better physically and emotionally.
Talk to a trained mental health professional. Therapists are trained to listen and to help you find healthy ways to cope and adjust to the stressors you may be facing. We are here to provide a safe and non-judgmental space where you can process your experiences.
Adjusting to life changes is challenging, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Give our office a call or start by filling out the intake form if you’re interested in reaching out to a therapist. We’re here to help and be a part of your journey, no matter how big or small the change you’re going through.
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