Three Ways to Take Good Care of Yourself Amid Change

Photo by: Patrick Fore

Photo by: Patrick Fore

I’m getting ready to fly to the U.S. tomorrow. This visit will be a mix of business and play, and I’m so excited.
I’m also anxious. It’s not easy to live so far from home. I worry that I won’t be able to see all the people I want to see and do everything I want to do.
Plus, it’s just emotional – I long to fill up on all the things I’ve missed of home. Hugs from my family. That mossy Oregon forest.
There is nothing like an impending 15-hour flight to remind me that I’m about to enter Transition.
We all experience moments of transition throughout our lives. For some of us, it's something we experience occasionally, say every couple of years. Changing jobs, getting a new boss, moving house, or ending a relationship.
For others, transition is a recurring feature of life. Certain lifestyles are full of transition. For example, for those of us who live or work abroad and often switching quickly between locations and cultures.
Some jobs are also filled with transition. Teachers, for example, are definitely feeling it this week. Many were just plunged from a relaxed summer schedule to one that runs on ringing bells. Plus, all the kids in their classes are in the midst of their own back-to-school transition, as are their parents.
What’s important about transition?
It can be pretty tough.
There’s the jangle of nerves: a mix of excitement and anxiety.
There’s expectation: equal parts of hope and wariness about the potential in something new.  

Finally, there’s adaptation to the reality of what all really goes down.  
Entering a period of transition can feel like pushing off your boat from the dock, heading out into open water. Maybe the waters will be calm and peaceful, the breeze gentle. Or maybe you’ll hit a tempest, find yourself thrown topsy-turvy, feeling positively ill.
Maybe the toughest part of transition is leaving the safety of shore and having to cope with whatever comes your way.
If you’re in the midst of transition, here are my top three tips on how to take good care of yourself:
1. Instead of saying, “I’m so stressed!” say “I’m excited!” A study reported in The New York Times actually found that you can reduce your anxiety by reframing emotions as excitement rather than stress.
I’ve experimented with this tip for a while now, and it’s helped me gain a new awareness that while transition does bring up many emotions – they are not all negative, as I used to assume.
Think about the last time you had to give an important presentation for work. Maybe you were stressed, and for good reason: a short timeline to prepare, a big audience, plus travel to the conference venue. Yet behind all that, wasn’t there also a thrill in pushing yourself with this challenge? Pride at being the one picked to speak? Excitement about doing a great job?
Every emotional whirlwind, I’ve learned, has a pretty big share of positive emotions that can be enjoyed instead of feared.
2. Anchor yourself with a mini-routine. Many of us find safety and comfort in routine. Transitions shake up our routines, which can leave us feeling distressed and harried. If this sounds like you, identify one or two activities you can do every single day (no matter what) to help ground you.
With clients (and in my own life), I regularly see that exercise is the best activity to maintain in transition. So make sure to pack your running shoes on your next trip. Or when you have a new job or schedule, religiously set aside the time you need for a workout. Exercise has so many benefits; do not give it up!
Other common examples are to eat a healthy breakfast, get enough sleep, or keep up yoga or meditation.
3. Take a “Power Hour.” Set aside an hour each day – morning is especially effective – that is just for you. Do whatever will renew or nourish you in this hour.
Introverts can especially benefit from this practice. Transitions often involve lots of new (or intense) social interactions that can be especially draining to introverts. Use your Power Hour as the time alone to recharge and get ready for a new day.
A Power Hour can be a time to meditate, journal, read, call a good friend, prepare for the day, eat a leisurely breakfast, or spend time in nature.

“Transition shock”

I’m planning to put several of these tips to use myself as I get ready to switch over from laid-back Catalan farm life to speedy, bubbling U.S. city life.
I always liked the term “culture shock.” Especially when I went to live in another country for the first time at age 16, I liked knowing that it was so normal to struggle with this big transition that there was a name for it. It was okay to feel this way. It might take time to adjust.   
Yet in other parts of our lives, we don’t have “back-to-school shock” or “back-from-vacation shock,” “new job shock” or “just-retired shock.”
With that in mind, here’s my last piece of advice about managing transition: Cut yourself some slack. Realize that if you’re struggling, it’s because this change is asking a lot extra of you.
So build in some downtime, lower your expectations. You’ll get adjusted soon – just take good care of yourself in the meantime.
Are you in the midst of a transition? What has been helping you to adjust and keep steady? Share it below.