It’s no secret that many of us struggle with change. Gail Blanke writes in her book Between Trapezes, that “most of us are afraid of the in-between times-those stretches between jobs, between lovers, between a past that is stifling our dreams and a future that is scarily, precariously unknown.” Whether it’s painful or joyful, there is something about the uncertainty of the unknown that creates anxiety and can sometimes paralyze us from moving forward. I recently went through my own transition which reminded me of the groundless feeling that not knowing often brings. While this transition was a conscious choice, I was surprised by the roller-coaster of emotions that I experienced along the way. I was excited/eager/apprehensive/overwhelmed/elated/anxious/nervous all at the same time.
So if change and the transition period are much like swinging from one trapeze to the next, how do we prevent ourselves from clinging to the safety of what we already know? When you are in the space between the old and the new with no control, it’s easy to panic. But in my experience as a person and a therapist, this is the time when you experience learning and growth if you let it happen. I’m not going to pretend it was easy for me or that it will be for others. In all honesty, I usually feel brief moments of doubt or regret when I’m in this place, but I try and stick it out through the discomfort knowing that transition is temporary. Here are some tips that I hope will help you through your transition to help you embrace the inevitable with a sense of curiosity and adventure:
- You’re supposed to feel a little scared. If you are truly making a change, taking a risk or doing something different it’s going to feel unsettling. As humans we are biased towards the things we know. Fear and anxiety come with the uncertainty of what don’t know, so it is normal to experience some anxiety during times of change.
- The importance of wise mind. There is a difference between uneasiness in the unknown and uneasiness because your intuition is telling you are making a bad decision. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to learn the difference and make decisions from a wise mind place rather than an emotional or rationalizing place.
- Take time to grieve what you are moving on from and make closure. Even with positive change, people often experience loss of what used to be. This is normal and natural. Take time to make closure with the past.
- Manage expectations: Take time to think about what is realistic. What do we want the outcome of the change to be? If we expect too much of ourselves or others then we set ourselves up for disappointment.
- Get support when needed. For me, I needed to vent and express how I was feeling to others. Therapy can be a great outlet and can also be a place where you get the tools and skills needed to move through the transition/change in a less stressful way.