By: Melanie Amini-Hajibashi, MS., LPC-IT., NCC
I recently celebrated my birthday just a few days ago. I love birthdays because they can spark reflection, introspection, and the infamous thought, “what the fuck am I doing with my life?”. I thought a lot about that question this past year. As I integrated away from my graduate studies and into a full-time therapist position, I began to wonder “what am I even doing here?”. I took a full-time position at a hospital and both loved every client I worked with, and absolutely fell out of balance with my own life. Every morning I started my day with large cups of coffee just to stay awake. It was a constant cycle of anxiety, lack of sleep, compassion fatigue, and dread. Not to mention in my personal life the shifts of my sister returning back into my life after 6 years abroad and losing my cat, Edgar. I was a mess.
Slowly, I am regaining a sense of balance back into my life. I found a new position that I am learning to love, joined the Apple Fitness+ family, and started being intentional about moving away from coffee to herbal teas. However, in the moments of my birthday reflection I decided to own, I struggle with change and transition. I always have.
Change and transition cause a natural rupture in our daily functioning. In fact, the DSM-5 (the therapist bible for diagnosis’s) calls this an “adjustment disorder”. An Adjustment disorder is a combination of depression, anxiety, and trauma symptoms that occur when we are experiencing stressful situations like a job change, a break up, or a move. Some of the symptoms that can occur include excessive worry, nervousness, hopeless, sadness, and overwhelm. We also experience difficulty sleeping, changes in our appetite, and stop doing activities we used to enjoy. Not to mention the difficulty making choices. Was this the right choice? What if it doesn’t work out? Maybe I should just go back? I don’t know what I’m doing. All of these symptoms are a normal part of being a human.
“So, I’m not losing my
No, you are not losing your mind. In fact, it’s normal to struggle during change and transition. We leave our cozy predictable comfort zone that our brain has created for us. In fact, our brain as powerful as they are actually prefer not to work hard super hard. That’s why we function (whether we like it or not) on routine and predictable patterns. When something like a move, break-up, lose, or new job disrupts our “norm” our brain detects threat and turns on our fight, flight, freeze response.
The amazing part of life and sometimes the unfortunate truth is that change is inevitable. I am going to face more change and transition in my life. Change is the only real constant. Therefore, it’s important to cope ahead for change. Below are a few tips that are helpful when coping ahead for change and giving ourselves grace. A skilled sailor is not made in calm waters.
- Normalize your experience
Normalize that you are going through a change and transition and that feelings of discomfort are a part of the process. They actually mean you are on the right path! Normalize that these feelings do not last forever.
- Try to create a new “normal” as soon as you can
One way to restore balance within ourselves is to create routines. Whether that is going for a walk every morning, drinking lemon water before coffee, or taking time to read before bed, give your brain something to predict.
- Don’t jump ship just yet.
Give yourself time with the “newness”. Slow down, see it out. I like to give myself at least 3 months to “just see” how things are going to go. If after those three months something is still off, I can make another decision. This tip is one of my favorites because naturally we want to run away from discomfort and run towards comfort. If we don’t give ourselves time to sail in settled waters, we are always going to jump back into situations that are no longer serving us.
- Numbing with drugs and alcohol are only temporary solutions
What are your maladaptive coping skills? Have you ever noticed that during change and transition we start reaching for the immediate fixes to avoid the discomfort in our bodies from all those emotions? I’m not saying you can’t enjoy a nice scotch or a doobie every once in a while, but what I am saying is that you need to feel your feels.
- Feel your feels
Humans are avoidant and it makes sense. Who wants to face the pain? And yet, it is so important to allow ourselves to feeling our emotions so that as soon as they come, they can also go. Feeling our emotions with compassion, grace, and understanding is one of the quickest ways to restore balance and calm the waters. They just feel so uncomfortable in the body.
- Move your body
I guarantee you first experiencing the discomfort of change in your body. The fastening heartbeat, the twisting in the stomach, the sinking feelings, the numbness. Move your body. Move the emotions through. During change and transition, find routine through physical activity as best as you can with your capabilities.
- Talk about it with someone you can trust
Sometimes we just need someone outside of ourselves to say, “what you are going through is normal and it’s going to be okay”. Reach out to those you can trust and consider getting a coach or therapist that you can work with during these times.
What transitions have you experienced and what are ways that you’ve overcame those changes and restored balance back into your life?
I am doing a lot better these days and although it was a tough year, it’s time to restore back to balance and keep it pushing. Consider how you can use these tips to help you anytime you are faced with change and transition. It’s all normal human stuff. Trust me.
Peace and love my friends