Major life events like bereavement, moving, retirement create stress and self-reflection. Try these strategies for how to navigate major life transitions.
“Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” This common phrase resonates with anyone who has been through upheaval—whether planned or unexpected—in their life.
Learning how to navigate major life transitions is part of achieving and maintaining a happy, fulfilling, and successful existence.
I love sharing strategies on how to navigate life transitions and challenges. I hope this article helps you to feel more confident and positive about the bumpy journey ahead.
Many of life’s major transitions can be anticipated—moving away from home for the first time, marriage, becoming a mother, and losing loved ones as we age. Others come suddenly and unexpectedly—job loss, terminal diagnoses, and natural disasters. Whether anticipated or not, major life changes cause stress. But they also create opportunity—to recreate yourself, take up a long-deferred career dream, even to embrace gratitude and live in the moment after losing a spouse. Change is normal and can produce positive benefits and new beginnings in life.
Any major life change is stressful. Channeling stress into excitement and using it as energy to overcome the challenge of a major setback or a new beginning can help you approach change with a positive attitude. Plus, with the right attitude, you can come through this stressful event feeling stronger.
Knowing where you’ve been helps you understand where you’re going. Go ahead and “feel the feels” of grief, regret, anxiety, anger, and frustration, so you can get through them to acceptance. Take time to say a fond goodbye to what has passed. Then, you can look forward optimistically to a new and different future. Perhaps this future is completely different than the “other plans” you made, but it’s wonderful in its own way. Part of this process is reassessing what is truly important in your life—your values, talents, family members, and friends. These are constants that can serve as touchstones in times of transition.
Reach out to friends and family members who love you unconditionally and will listen to you vent without judgment. If you’re having a particularly hard time, seek help from a qualified therapist or life coach. When you’re working with a qualified coach, you’ll feel supported to make it through tough times with a renewed outlook on your life’s transitions.
If you’re struggling with commitments such as taking care of your elderly parents and feel they’re not getting the care they deserve, you might consider turning to a retirement community such as John Knox Village to help take care of your aging parents and take a weight off of your shoulders.
Don’t expect to get through a major transition quickly—there may be too many moving parts. Start with a task or an area of your life you can manage easily, and get that sorted out first. It may be a small change in your self-care habits, such as improving your diet or resolving to read a chapter of an uplifting book each evening. Do one thing on your checklist a day. Letting go of what is gone and accepting what has changed in your circumstances is a process, and it doesn’t happen all at once.
From infancy through our years as students, to enduring love and heartbreak, to reaching retirement and helping aging parents through the second infancy of old age, the one lesson we can always learn is that we will get through it. Remember, you’ve endured big transitions before, and you can do it again.