The Only Thing Constant is Change
Contributed by Tracie L Keller, LPCC-S
Transitions are hard.
They impact all of us, and we all have been through them.
Moving. Starting a new relationship...ending an old relationship. Starting a new job….leaving an old one. Having a child. Being diagnosed with an illness.
Regardless of how many of these we have been through, they are sure to kick up anxiety in even the most seasoned “transition-er.” Even the culturally accepted “positive” transitions do so. I can’t begin to tell you how many clients I have sat with speaking of anxiety or depressed mood related to quote un-quote, “positive transitions” like graduating college, getting a new job, getting married, or having a child.
So what if I told you that what is most key to surviving any types of transitions is also the most uncomfortable part?
Transitions move us from one place to another. Sometimes that place is physical, but at the crux of any transition, we are changing internally. That change? It’s uncomfortable. But in this discomfort, we are able to make sense of our new reality and of our new selves.
I remember the time surrounding my decision to leave an old job and start out on my own in private practice. I was ever excited about the opportunities ahead, but my brain kept focusing on the things that would change about my life--and myself--as I took that leap. I wondered what would happen to my old identity as a therapist in an agency setting? I wondered if my clinical skills would lend themselves to this new arena, and whether I could translate what I knew of my professional identity and place her in this professional setting. While I had anxiety at times about my clinical work in that old setting, these were new stirrings of anxiety that I had not experienced previously. What helped me in this time was to remember that this anxiety is normal. This anxiety was telling me that change was on the horizon, and just like any human I have ever known, I wasn’t liking it. What’s challenging about the way that human brains are wired, as well as how we are socialized, is that we “are not good at change.” Said more factually, we are not comfortable with it.
What would happen if instead of saying that we are “not good at change,” we said something like, “I’m practicing being okay with this period of time.” Or how about, “I’m practicing being okay with not being okay.”
What would change is we would allow ourselves to be more human. We would give a context to our anxieties, which are natural and normal, and we may be able to communicate more effectively with those around us and normalize this “change-anxiety.” [I just made that term up, so don’t go looking it up!]
What’s important to focus on as we are going through these times of discomfort and transition is that we can choose to cope in a way that sustains us, rather than drains us. For me, communication with others I trust has always been a way that I relieve this stress. I’m a talker, and if you’re close with me, you know this. But sometimes talking isn’t just it. Sometimes we need an activity that helps release the tension and gives us a way to process it in a physical way. Maybe you are person who would benefit from meditation or mindfulness exercises during times of transition. And maybe, just maybe, you can try all of these things to help get you better set up for healthy coping during transition.
If you need some help during a transition, know that mental health counselors are well equipped to help you on your processing and experiencing in this way. Adjustment concerns are one of the most diagnosed and treated concerns in counseling, and after reading this, I hope you understand why.
It’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay not to know where that discomfort is taking you. And it’s okay to reach out to someone who may be able to assist you through it.