Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing constant in life is change”. Whether it is the changing of seasons, moving, or watching your kids grow up, change always surrounds us. Life is a series of transitions and changes and can be both big and small, exciting and challenging. As humans we have a hard time adjusting to change. We like routine, stability and certainty and change can often trigger uncertainty, an uncomfortable feeling to sit with. Especially as we are entering into a new school year and moving from summer routines to the back-to-school schedule and adjusting to the academic environment, now is the perfect time to check in and either remind or learn about a couple coping strategies to use during transitions.
- Be Kind and Compassionate to Yourself
This first tip is hard and so much easier said than done! We tend to be hard on ourselves especially during times of transition and change, when there are things that happen that are out of our control. It is important to treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion that you would a good friend or family member who is going through a tough time. Begin by acknowledging your feelings, whether you are feeling anxious, angry or sad, and just give yourself permission to feel those feelings. You can remind yourself that it is normal to feel overwhelmed during times of change and that these feelings are how you are coping with the change. Instead of tensing up and pushing these feelings away, see if you can create some openness to allow the feelings to be in your body.
- Build a Support Network
The second tip is all about connection. No matter who you are, we all face many changes in our lives. Whether the change looks like starting a new career, moving across the country or having a new baby, we all experience changes. Reaching out to friends, family or professionals who can offer guidance or just a listening ear can be a simple but helpful way to find support. Simply talking out loud to someone else about your challenges can be one way to relieve stress and more often than not, whomever you are sharing with can relate to your struggles or experience. Online communities like Facebook groups or community forums to connect over shared interests can be helpful resources. Remember, sharing and being vulnerable is a sign of strength not weakness. We all need connection and support from others.
- Establish Routines that Work for You
The last tip is about establishing routines or consistent practices that provide an anchor and stability. For some, this looks like regular exercise, reading a book before you go to bed, a mindfulness practice or a weekly call with a family member or friends to check in. One thing about the new school year is it provides structure for routine, embrace that! Consistency and having a sense of your own schedule will help reduce the influx or swirling feelings that can be stirred up during a change.
Of course, there are a number of other coping strategies or tips but here are three to start with. What works for you? What helps you stay grounded or focused during transition? Remember you are not alone and transition is not easy, but by integrating one or all of these strategies into your life, you might find a little lightness and ease in your day to day.
Elena Palermo (she/her) is a graduate therapist at the Hope Center for Wellness. She is a first-year graduate clinical social work student at Smith College School of Social Work. Her career therapeutic aspirations include interlacing mindfulness-based interventions into a psychodynamic framework.