Navigating Life Transitions and Understanding Their Impact
By: Kate Daigle
“Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind.” - Fred Rogers
You might be asking yourself, what is a life transition?
Generally, a life transition is any event that impacts our internal and external worlds – our internal world being our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. Our external world being our relationships, financial status, jobs, schooling, etc. To some degree, we’re in constant states of transitions but there are also some transitions that pack a bigger punch.
Life transitions come in all shapes in sizes. Some are small, minor, transitions that barely impact us at all. Some are big, daunting transitions that turn our world upside down. Then, there are some transitions that are somewhere in-between. Transitions can be both exciting and scary. When you reflect on your life, what transitions stand out to you? Were they transitions that evoked feelings of anxiety? Or were they welcomed transitions? Maybe they were a combination of both.
Common types of life transitions can include the following:
Death or loss
Starting a new job
Starting a new relationship
Now that you know what constitutes a life transition, you might be wondering how they impact you. Well, life transitions can affect us holistically - meaning that they can impact us mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
So, what are the possible impacts of navigating life transitions?
Not only do life transitions impact our physical being, but they also impact the way we perceive things and can challenge our belief systems. We all have engrained beliefs about our worlds, both internally and externally. When life transitions occur, such as divorce or loss, our perception of our worlds can be altered. Experiencing a loss might cause us to reflect on the fragility of life. As a result, we might become see things through a more enlightened, intentional, and appreciative lens.
Life transitions tend to evoke many emotional reactions ranging from joy to sadness. Navigating transitions, whether big or small, can allow us to develop an increased understanding of how we relate to our emotions. For example, entering adulthood can be one of the most intimidating developmental stages. However, it’s one of the life transitions the can help us to appreciate feeling multiple things at once. Adulthood comes with new responsibilities, which can be both overwhelming and exciting. When approached from this perspective, we learn to appreciate that our emotions don’t have to be black and white.
Going through a life transition might evoke various reactions from our physical selves. For example, an exciting transition of a job promotion or marriage might unlock certain chemicals in our brain such as Dopamine, which is the chemical responsible for feeling rewarded or Oxytocin, which is responsible for our feelings of love. On the other hand, navigating a stressful or scary life transition could evoke our body’s fight-flight-or-freeze response, which releases adrenaline, cortisol, and other chemicals, which trigger you to respond to an event quickly. You might notice, with stressful or scary transitions, that you struggle with sleep or appetite. While there are many other possible physical reactions to life transitions, these are some of the most common.
As a reminder, no two people experience life transitions in the exact same way. Navigating change is unique to an individual and there’s no need to slap any timelines onto how long it takes us to adjust to change. Almost any type of transition comes with some level of stress. So, make sure to check in with yourself to see how you’re managing. Check out next week’s post, which will share helpful tips and strategies for navigating life transitions, big and small!
Be Your Best Self + Thrive Counseling uses a holistic, non-judgmental approach to help you build an alliance with your mind, body and spirit that work together for your benefit. Kate is a therapist who is experienced in working with life transitions. You can find out more about her here. Book your free consultation here to discuss how we can help!