Ah, September. If you’re like me, this month is permanently etched in your mind as a time of major change and transition, even if you’re no longer a slave to an academic schedule. Transitions occur when there is any disruption in our lives — whether that is a positive or negative disruption. This could include moving in with a partner, changing jobs, going to graduate school, changing apartments, ending a relationship, losing a family member, acquiring a pet, having a baby, etc.
Although some people naturally embrace change, for others, it is synonymous with anxiety and a spike in stress levels. If you’re in the latter category, here are five suggestions for tackling transitions without losing your cool.
1. Talk about it.
Though your instinct may be to isolate and withdraw, try to remain connected to others during this time. Do your best to schedule coffee dates or meals with others, or even just a phone call to check in. Not only do social interactions improve our overall health, they significantly decrease our stress levels. Additionally, feeling alone in an experience is sometimes a large part of the difficulty. Chances are, if you open up to a friend or family member, they will be able to relate — and possibly offer some words of comfort.
2. Embrace JOMO.
It’s tempting to want to say yes to everything: a friend’s party, happy hour drinks, a coworker’s housewarming. Most of us have fallen victim to FOMO (fear of missing out) at some point, propelling us to over-schedule and under-prioritize time for ourselves. The good news is that FOMO has a cooler younger cousin, JOMO, which stands for Joy of Missing Out. This practice celebrates our willingness to say no, set boundaries, be more mindful, and be less plugged in to our devices. During times of transition, saying no might be especially critical to preserve your emotional and physical energy and prevent feeling overwhelmed.
3. Establish routine when possible.
When big things in your life are changing, it can be incredibly helpful to maintain some semblance of a routine. Waking up at the same time each day, sticking to your exercise schedule, meal prepping — whatever self-care practices you were doing prior to the new life event, try to adhere to them. Taking comfort in small rituals reminds us that although we are going through a time of transition, there are always some things that remain familiar.
4. Have realistic expectations for yourself.
Even if the transition you are making is expected to be positive, be prepared for some initial discomfort. For example, starting a new job is exciting, but often comes with a steep learning curve. You’ll need some time to feel out your new boss, feel competent in your role, and develop relationships with coworkers. Don’t expect to love every aspect of the job right away! Take note of the aspects of the transition that are going well in addition to the parts that are challenging, and give yourself permission to adjust slowly.
5. Tweak your perspective.
One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou: “If you don’t like it, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” Most of us, by default, prefer to have choice and control in our lives, and sometimes we choose something new or different specifically to change a particular circumstance that was not working for us. Yet often in life, and especially in times of transition, there are so many variables that are outside our control. These are the times when we must practice acceptance, patience, and gratitude. Gratitude in particular has been linked to a substantial number of health benefits. This will benefit your emotional health much more than complaining and ruminating.