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How Can I Mange Transitional Stress?

Amanda Ann Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Certified Therapist

Transitional stress is a certain emotional and/or physical response to a life transition.  Here are some tips to help you cope with transitional stress: 

Embrace Awareness

Step back and notice what’s happening in your life. Can you identify one or more transitions that you are experiencing now? A transition does not need to be a huge, life changing event, but may be something that appears small or insignificant. Finishing a project at work, trying a new haircut, and adopting a pet are all life. Moreover, positive transitions can cause just as much transitional stress as negative transitions. A salary increase, making a full recovery from an illness, and a graduation are all transitions that can cause stress. Having an awareness of your current transitions can help you understand why you are experiencing increased stress. 

Practice Self-compassion

Once you are aware that you’re experiencing transitional stress, it’s time to practice self-compassion. Have you said any of these statements to yourself?

  •       “Just get over it.”
  •       “This is a good thing, there’s no reason to feel this way.”
  •       “What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t be feeling this way.”

These thoughts are judgmental and at times inaccurate. Transitional stress is often a normal and healthy reaction to life transitions. Stress reactions could be your mind and body’s way of adapting to changes. In order to practice self-compassion, trying communicating these messages to yourself instead:

  •       “I’m experiencing a transition, of course I’m stressed.”
  •       “This stress is due to a transition, it’ll pass.”
  •       “My mind and body are figuring things out.”
  •       “Anyone else going through this would also feel stressed.”

Be Flexible

When you’re experiencing transitional stress you cannot expect yourself to function at the same level as when you’re not experiencing a transition. It’s important to make adjustments as you anticipate an upcoming transition, undergo the actual transition, and recover from the transition once it has passed. Here are few ways that you can be flexible in order to meet your transitional needs:

  •       Reduce or adjust your expectations to match your current level of functioning.
  •       Adjust your schedule to allow more time for self-care.
  •       Reorganize how you spend your time and energy in order to cope with your transition. 
  •       If feasible, put large projects, big goals, and stress inducing events on hold for now.
  •       Makes changes to your environment to better suit your needs.

Seek Support

Seeking and being open to receiving support from others can help you manage stress. Consider letting the people in your life know that you are going through a transition so that they are aware of it and ready to support you. Letting the members of your support system know this also tells them that you might not be in a position to support them until you’ve settled into your new situation. Open communication may also help you feel less obligated to support others when you may need to prioritize your own needs for the time being.

How can members of your support system help you? If you know, tell them. Now isn’t the time to worry about whether you are being a “burden.” This is a time to ask for help and support from others. This is also a time to embrace healthy and positive people in your life as opposed to seeking support from those who may not be able to provide it or who may cause you additional stress.

Increase Self-care

What helps you manage stress? Take note of the self-care methods that work for you and make sure that you are practicing them often. When we experience transitions our self-care practices tend to be the first things to go. It’s a good idea not only to continue your usual self-care practices, but to increase them as you go through a transition. For example, if you engage in a meditation practice once a day, you might consider increasing your practice to twice a day.

Begin Therapy

If you are experiencing transitional stress, participating in therapy could help. A therapist can help you embrace awareness, practice self-compassion, be flexible, seek support, and increase self-care. Symmetry Counseling in Chicago provides individual therapy to help you mange transitional stress. 

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