Tips for handling Life Transitions

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Treat yourself with the same respect, generosity, and gentleness that you would give to any one that you love.

Spend time with people who appreciate you and who show it through their words and actions.

Take time to reflect and get to know yourself better.

Often there are times in our life when we face change.  Sometimes this change is expected and other times it is not.  Change brings with it a shift in thinking, feelings and often lifestyle.  There is an adjustment period.  Change can occur with very little impact on our lives or with a major impact.   Take for incidence when someone is given a diagnosis of a chronic health condition.  The implications have a ripple effect on friends and family not to mention the significant impact to the person who has been given the diagnosis.  An adjustment or transition period needs to take place to give your thoughts time to wrap around the information. Other situations of transition may be divorce, death of a loved one or pet, loss of a job, moving to a new community, shift in a friendship, retirement, or the blending of a family, chronic illness/pain, and limited mobility to name a few.  If this change brings with it a sense of being overwhelmed we can get caught up in negativity and the world seems like a dark place.

What becomes critical here is deciding what is important to you?  While we can’t control many aspects of our life, we can control how we respond to it.  You need to decide where you want to put your focus, developing a mindset that enables you to experience meaning and purpose in life in order to strengthen that particular area.  Rather than allowing ourselves to feel trapped we need to cultivate skills for experiencing satisfaction with what we do with our lives.  In other words can we reconfigure our approach?

It is often said that life is full of obstacles that we have to overcome, challenges that have to be faced and hardships that we could never have expected.  Nobody can live life void of difficulties but we can certainly develop skills to effectively deal with these situation.  This involves examining our response to situations.  Our behaviors are often the result of unconscious thought processes.  Thoughts and behaviours can occur without us choosing them.  For example, did you have to think about how you would get out of bed this morning, or what you needed to do to take a shower?  Certain behaviors just happen automatically.  We can train ourselves to develop habits manifesting automatic behaviours. The brain is very good at doing things on autopilot.

A person standing on a steep ledge looking out at obstacles ahead

Rather than allowing ourselves to become trapped in negativity we can learn to behave in ways that more effectively influence our long-term levels of happiness.  First we must recognize that the only person that we can change is ourselves.  We may have influence on another person but in the end we must be responsible for our own happiness.  Rather than the conditions of our lives being the primary culprit for our suffering, our own thoughts and emotional reactions are often our worst enemy. Human beings appear to be more prone to look for possible pitfalls than to look for rewards.  It is not just the thoughts themselves that cause unhappiness, but the fact that they occupy so much of our attention.  In a heartbeat –that fast, we can be caught up in our own negativity!  How might we learn to be easier on ourselves?  That is the million dollar question.   Well the good news is that our brain does have the capability to change. We can learn to interrupt our impulsive thoughts and reactions.

Recent research confirms that by learning techniques to create balance in your life you will become better equipped to deal with your situation.  Balance of work, fun, exercise, family etc. is critical when dealing with a major life adjustment. Learning to develop a counter balance to the fight or flight response in your body will provide you with new responses to familiar situations.  You have a choice where you focus your attention.  The more you practice strategies that shift your thoughts and behaviour the more you will begin to break patterns that are not giving you the results you desire.  When we realize that we can use the creative power of thought to change our emotional environment we start on an adventure of new possibilities.

Joyce Barwis is a Registered Clinical Counsellor in Victoria, BC. Joyce maintains a private practice at the Vancouver Island Naturopathic and Integrated Health Clinic. If you need help dealing with a life transition give Joyce a call at 250.881.1806.