If I’ve learned anything during my time on this Earth, it’s that none of us are immune to the ups and downs of life. As the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said, “Change is the only constant in life.” And while change is normal, it can also be stressful. In this post, we’ll discuss mindful life transitions and how mindfulness can help you cope and make stressful transitions a little less daunting.
“Change is the only constant in life.” ~ Heraclitus
Some changes will be exciting and you’ll have had a chance to plan and prepare. Other times change is more challenging and rather unexpected. Whether it’s starting a new job, moving to a new city, starting or ending a relationship, or dealing with loss, it’s common to experience uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations when going through a major life transition. Even welcomed changes can create fear, anxiety, and doubt.
Whether the change is welcomed or not, there are steps we can take to work with challenging or painful thoughts and feelings amid a major life change.
Mindful Life Transitions
Mindful life transitions mean that we’re able to move through changes with more kindness, curiosity, and clarity, paying attention to the present moment with non-judgmental awareness.
But why would we want to lean into a transition that’s making us uncomfortable? The thing about transitions is that they are watershed moments in our lives, a turning point that we need to be present for so that we can experience them fully and become wiser for having braved them.
And because change is inevitable, rather than becoming paralyzed by the fear of change, we can work with the thoughts and feelings around transitions, making them less painful and allowing us to learn and grow from them.
How To Experience Mindful Life Transitions
Below are some common major life transitions and suggestions for how to approach them more mindfully.
Job or Career Changes
Whatever the reason is for seeking out a new job – you moved, were laid off, or simply being unhappy at your current position – you may feel anxious or even apprehensive about starting your new gig.
It’s good to remind yourself that your new employer felt you were the best person for the job. It’s also a good idea to plan ahead. Find out the dress code. If you’re unsure about what’s acceptable to wear, contact HR and ask. Pick out your clothes the night before and lay them out.
Decide on your route, and be sure to give yourself extra time to get there. This will make it less likely that you’ll arrive flustered or late.
Be eager and interested, but don’t set yourself up for unrealistic goals. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. Most supervisors would rather answer a few questions than deal with mistakes.
According to a survey by the Census Bureau, the average American moves 11.7 times during his or her lifetime. And it’s often said to be one of the most stressful events. This is understandable considering there’s much to sort out when preparing to move – finding and dealing with a real estate agent, finding a potential buyer, selling your current home. Then there’s the packing, informing everyone about the change of address, and even finding a new school if you have children. It can take a toll.
However, it can be the start of a new, exciting chapter in your life. Getting organized can help you cope with the upheaval and give you a sense of control. Write a list of all the things you need to do and their deadlines.
Don’t forget about self-care during this time. Saying goodbye to your current home and your family and friends can bring sadness. This is normal. Make sure you take the time to listen to what your body and soul need. Don’t rush the time it may take to adjust to your new surroundings. Allow yourself to settle in gently and before you know it, you’ll be happy in your new home.
Divorce or Separation
Whether it’s a mutual agreement or not, splitting up or leaving a partner can rock your world and tear you apart. For many, this loss can be similar to bereavement.
Regret, fear, guilt, and anger can come into play. These are natural responses to loss. Accept it, mourn your loss, and start taking small steps towards moving on. Letting go is crucial to a fresh start.
Leaning on supportive family and friends, as well as a positive attitude, will help get you through. Focus on yourself, giving more love and attention to your needs more than ever before! Practicing a loving-kindness meditation or Tara Brach’s RAIN practice are great ways to start showing yourself some love.
Dealing With Loss & Grief
It goes without saying that your life is turned on its head when someone you love passes away. There are so many emotions that can follow the experience – shock, sadness, anger, guilt, and sometimes even relief. You might wonder if you’ll ever smile again or feel joy. I can assure you that you will. But you must allow yourself the time and space to grieve.
There’s no right or wrong way to cope with grief. Everyone’s approach is unique. Some people will feel a variety of feelings for months, others may be bereft for years. You’ll have days when you feel ready to face the world and others when you’ll be overcome by sadness or other emotions and want to withdraw from the world and simply cry. Allow it. All of it. This is the only way through.
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” – Buddha
Leaning on supportive friends who have been in your situation or seeking out bereavement counseling can be helpful. Talking about your inner emotions may be difficult at first, but may eventually lead to more joyful conversations where you’re able to reminisce about your favorite memories of your loved one.
I lost my mother in July of 2019 and I can honestly tell you that it took me several months to even begin to move past the pain and suffering that it caused.
Yet, after months of almost unimaginable pain, I felt myself start to feel some relief from the strong emotions I had been experiencing. As I meditated more I started relating to the experience more as a beautiful transition and less as a traumatic experience. I began to honor the tears I shed as salty little badges of love that I have and always will have for my mother. I even began to learn new things to honor her memory. Through these small actions, I have found a way to live alongside my loss.
Of course, certain dates – holidays, birthdays, the anniversary of their death – are particularly hard. Try to keep these dates pretty open and free of any commitments. Instead, maybe visit somewhere that holds happy memories, hang out with family or a close friend, or simply relax and do whatever fills your heart.
Although we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we respond. Although transitions can be stressful, forcing us to give up the familiar, mindful life transitions can also drive us to create something new and wonderful in our lives.
The next time you face a challenging life transition, remember to acknowledge your feelings with kindness and curiosity, remind yourself of the good things in your life, establish a self-care routine, embrace new possibilities, and relax. And if your stress persists, therapy may offer the support and insight needed to mitigate the impact of these changes and offer the opportunity for growth.
I hope this article serves you in coping with whatever changes life brings your way. Wishing you peace, comfort, and insight in all of your transitions.