TRANSITIONS: SEASONS OF GROWTH
Are you one of the many
• looking for a new purpose for your life
• downsizing to smaller, more manageable digs so you can have more time for yourself
• unexpectedly single
• reviving a dormant career
Or, like me, are you experiencing one of the above AND ALSO find parental caregiving is a new fact of your life?
If you are, then you are in the growing season called transition. And, you aren\’t alone. More and more, I find myself talking to women who are juggling jobs, careers, parenting and grandparenting with the unexpected but growing needs of their parents.
As you work your way through this hectic time, here\’s something you need to know: though we often refer to change and transition as the same thing, they aren\’t. Understanding the difference will help you get through this time in better shape.
Change is a specific external event like a wedding, divorce, a new job, a move to a new home, a promotion, or retirement.
Transition, however, is the process that occurs around an event. Your last child\’s graduation, for example, is an event, but the transition begins long before their ceremony and extends well past it. Though the graduation ceremony is over in a couple hours, the transition (theirs and yours) might last for several years.
While change is usually something you can pinpoint exactly, transitions have no set beginning or end and no exact length of time. They sort of sneak up on you.
When my mother decided to move to a retirement community and my mother-in-law fell, my spouse and I stepped in to help. At first, and without too much consideration, we just added our mothers\’ needs to our to-do list. Frankly, it didn\’t work very well. Maybe we weren\’t paying attention or just preferred denial, but we didn\’t recognize how our mothers\’ transitions were also forcing us into transition. As a result, life got pretty stressful. Maybe you know how it feels to think you can take something in stride…and then discover you are in over your head. That was us, big time. However, once we came to grips with our changing reality, we got better at dealing with it.
That\’s what you can do too. Say to yourself, “what I thought was going to last forever [job, lifestyle, parenting] is over. That time is ended. Done. Now I need to refocus and put my energy toward adapting to my new lifestyle.” Saying the words is a signal to yourself to stop dwelling on yesterday and start moving forward. As your mind accepts your new reality, it lets go of emotional or physical stuff that is outdated and adjusts to your new reality. Soon your behavior will follow and you\’ll get back on your victory path.
Here are SIX TIPS you can use to get through your transition:
I know…who wants to do that? Do it anyway. When you are in a transition, be as lovingly patient with yourself as you would be with a child or other loved one. You may not be at your best, or your sharpest, but that\’s only temporary. When things settle down, you\’ll get back to your full mind. Patience will help you find the right path and give you confidence to take the next step.
2—Do one thing at a time.
When we feel overwhelmed by a transition, most of us cannot think. However, usually we can manage to solve one problem. So, get paper and pen and do a mind dump. Write down every to-do and all the yama-yama stuff that\’s cluttering up your brain. Then, take one item from your list, find a solution and take action. When you complete that one, do another. One by one, you\’ll whittle your list down and move ahead.
3—Get help. Sometimes we can\’t find our way out the front door, let alone through a transition. That\’s when it\’s time to find someone to help.
The day I helped my mother dismantled her china closet started badly for her. She was so overwhelmed that she just sat in a chair, half-dazed. When I asked her to pick out what she\’d take to her new home, she couldn\’t think. So I took her dinnerware and put it aside. I did the same with silverware, glasses, etc. until it no longer looked to my mother like a confusing maze. Soon my mother could focus on the task and added to the group I set out. Then together we packed, and it was done.
That\’s what it means to get help during a transition. A friend, life coach or therapist can help you sort out items that are cluttering up your house or your mind. Friends are good for venting, therapists help with problems, and coaches give you direction and encourage you to move forward. You don\’t have to go through your transition alone.
4—Get over your anger. There are few things that will hold up a transition like being angry. If anger is getting in your way, find a way to release it. Try something physical, like a carpentry project where you have to hammer something. Or, write and then burn your angry thoughts. Some women even find cooking or gardening takes the edge off anger. Avoid self-sabotaging behaviors like overeating, overdrinking, drugs, etc.
5—Use the experience to get better.
Ask yourself, “What am I supposed to learn from this experience?” and “What good can I get from this?” Grow from your mistakes and experiences.
6—Escape…briefly. My father once gave me a great piece of advice about the stuff that we can\’t do anything about: “Put your mind in neutral and coast.” It works. These one-day coasting suggestions will re-energize you.
• Getaway Day: Drive to the country or the beach for some fresh air.
• Movie Marathon: Rent 2-3 missed or loved movies; watch them all day.
• Laughter Party: Invite a few friends over for wine, cheese and jokes…no negativity allowed.
One last tip: the chaos of transition will last just about as long as it takes for you to feel comfortable and safe in your new environment or lifestyle. Doubts, fears or questions, like “Will I be successful?” or “Will I fit in?” and even “Will I be safe…or happy?” Transitions bring up those concerns for everyone. You can handle it. Remember this: your true power resides within you. Find it, use it and grow your transition into a victory!