It is often said that change is the only constant in life. From changing careers, to relocating, to relationship endings, transitions represent the spaces in-between something we were familiar with morphing into something different that we aren’t completely sure how to handle (yet). And while we’re finally getting back to some normalcy post-pandemic, it doesn’t seem like the pandemic-era economic, societal, and resulting personal shifts are abating anytime soon.
For example, we are still in the midst of the great resignation, a term coined by a London professor to describe the pandemic-era wave of workers quitting their jobs at a staggering rate of 4 million per month that is not expected to slow down in 2023. While the pandemic may not have started this trend, it certainly gave workers more time to reflect on their values and explore career opportunities that aligned better with their location, financial goals, and work-life balance needs – a parallel trend some are calling the great redefinition.
On the other hand, some workers found themselves leaving a job involuntarily because the company could no longer afford to employ them, because of an inability to meet changing job requirements, or because of health problems spurred by the pandemic itself or by burnout – a pattern of overworking often exacerbated by chronic understaffing.
Whether we are in a transition by personal choice or by some ‘outside’ force, it can still present difficulties. As creatures of habit, transitions are difficult because change itself is uncomfortable, and pushes us out of the well-worn grooves we were used to. Even when we welcomed the change, and were sure it was the right decision at the right time, the transition to the new can feel like it’s not a fit right away – leaving us second-guessing ourselves and questioning whether we made a mistake.
While we can’t go back in time and do things all over again, there are a handful of specific practices that can help us maintain a positive mindset and keep moving forward, even in the midst of the transition blues.
Often times when we are in an uncomfortable or challenging transition, we tend to focus on the negative aspects of the situation, intensifying our already fragile mindset. This can make our situation seem worse than it really is, leading to a downward spiral of regret.
During these times, a gratitude practice – whether it is writing down or meditating on or visualizing the positive aspects of your life – can help deflect some attention from your worries, and remind you that there are always at least a few things to be happy about. Things to be grateful for can include support from friends and family, stability in a parallel situation, or resources to make the necessary adjustments to realign your situation.
Take a step back, acknowledge what IS working in your situation, and be thankful for that.
Every perceived negative situation contains a gift. However, it can take weeks, months, or even years for us to become aware of what that gift might be, leading us to confirm in real time that everything is going wrong. This critical internal dialogue can compound an already stressful situation.
Flip the script by thinking about what lessons can be extracted from a difficult transition. These can include your takeaways, or things you’ll do differently when you approach a similar future scenario; reflecting on information you’re gathering from the contrast – or elements you do not appreciate about your current situation – and how that can inform your choices going forward; and subjects you might want to learn about to arm yourself with additional knowledge and confidence.
By focusing on lessons learned, we send a message of willingness to see the silver linings, even in the midst of difficulty.
When we are unhappy with our current situation, we can become trapped in a thought loop of how we got to this point and wondering what could have been (the past). This can keep us attached to a negative story and prevent us from moving forward.
In this case, it can be helpful to think about what would make us feel more positive and hopeful in the future, and make plans toward that end. Whether it’s a vacation, a visit with family or friends, or a concert or cultural event, planning ahead and getting into the vibration of the things we do like can help shift us into a more constructive and optimistic state of being.
Service to Self
Similar to planning ahead for the future, service to ourself, also known as self care, can help to ease our worries and relax us into a state of being where solutions can come more easily.
Self care practices can include preparing healthy meals, getting regular exercise and ample sleep, taking breaks, and treating ourselves to a professional massage or other holistic health care service.
Service To Others
On the flip side, when things aren’t seeming to go our way, we can focus a bit too much on ourselves. This pattern of navel-gazing can cause us to dwell on our issues, creating a ‘woe is me’ cul-de-sac.
Shift the focus away from your perceived problems by giving the gift of service to someone else. There are so many ways to help someone else, from donating items to a local non-profit, to helping a friend or family member with one of their projects, to volunteering with a local charitable organization.
A career transition, for example, might result in having more time on your hands. Instead of spending excessive time watching Netflix or on social media – which can drain rather than replenish your energy – consider volunteering to beautify your local area through a gardening or other restoration project or fostering an animal in need.
By refocusing your energy toward supporting someone or something else, you will create space for your own situation to evolve.
How do you stay balanced in the midst of change?