13 Tips on Handling Major Life Transitions


Happy New Year to you! I hope your 2019 has been off to a good start and you are living fully. My desire for you is that this is your best year ever so far.

I have never been one to seriously contemplate the start of a new year, as my view is that I need to be ‘consciously’ living a full life regardless of me welcoming a new year or not, as my ongoing activities roll over into the new year anyway. The major thing a new year signifies for me is growing a year older.

Last year, I came across a quote in one of the lovely books I read- Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. It says, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer”, and ever since I read this quote, I’ve been thinking about transitions in life and how we can navigate these. This is what today’s post is about.

Meanwhile, if you missed my list of favourite books in 2018, have a look here.

It seems like a simple and natural progression to move through different life stages, isn’t it? For example, a child is born, learns to walk, goes to school, graduates (or not), gets a job (or not), gets married (or not), tries to change the world (or not), has children (or not), has grandchildren (or not), grows old (this is a given, no debates) and dies (eventually). Or for a less morbid example, it’s how an egg develops into a caterpillar (larva), a pupa and then a butterfly.

In our seemingly straightforward lifecycle as human beings, so many things happen- life transitions being one of them. They sometimes drop on us unannounced while some are envisaged or planned. Some of these transitions are positive or negative, could be moments of serious lows, periods of exhilarating highs, dull moments of banality, back and forth movements, a stripping of ideals, questioning of mental models that we’ve accepted without interrogating, feelings of no direction, periods of self-discovery, reflection and renewal etc.

As you know, the word transition is one of those double-edged words that is simply bewildering because experiencing it places you within a wide spectrum in this place we call life. It is a word that has its nuances and for today’s post, I’ll defer to my trusted sources to provide some clarity on what a transition is. Here’s what I came across:

  • It is a passage from one state, stage, subject or place to another OR a movement, development or evolution from one form, stage or style to another (Meriam-Webster dictionary)
  • The process of change, or a change from one form or condition to another (Cambridge English dictionary)
  • The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another (Oxford dictionary)
  • The period during which something changes from one state or stage to another (Collins dictionary)
  • Movement, passage or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another; change: the transition from adolescence to adulthood

I have experienced a considerable number of major transitions myself .e.g. getting married, relocating from Nigeria to South Africa, career breaks, becoming a parent, starting new jobs, a new career trajectory, difficult life moments, going back to school after a long time and much more. Events which produced significant changes and stripped me bare, leaving me with unanswered questions. Some emotions these transitional periods evoked include fear, excitement, doubt, insecurity, happiness, worry, feeling hopeful, optimism and acceptance. But I can’t state the stages of life transitions better than Richard B. Joelson who describes these as:

  1. Experiencing a range of negative feelings (anger, anxiety, confusion, numbness and self-doubt)
  2. Feeling a loss of self-esteem
  3. Beginning to accept the change
  4. Acknowledging that you need to let go of the past and accepting the future
  5. Beginning to feel hopeful about the future
  6. Feeling increased self-esteem
  7. Developing an optimistic view of the future

Because I’ve had my fair share of transitional moments in life, I am now used to seeing them as life adventures. I have also come to accept that the only thing constant thing in life is change. I must admit, it took me a while to wrap that discovery around my head, but I now get it. And because transitions are commonplace, I believe you can relate to this post as you have had your own fair share of them as well.

You’ll agree that one never remains the same after a transitional period (if you don’t resist it) and it forms a building block for life. It produces a certain level of maturity and aptitude necessary for dealing with the next transitional period, helps you prioritise what matters while expunging the unnecessary, and makes you know yourself- like truly knowing who you are and what you believe in.

As a new year begins, one thing that is for sure is that you will have new life experiences and transitional moments in 2019. Question is how do you handle these sometimes, uncomfortable periods of change?

13 Tips on Handling Major Life Transitions 

  1. Decide to accept all the lessons and experiences a transition brings you, regardless of how daunting, scary, nerve-wracking or exciting the new phase might be. That almost automatically makes you prepared mentally.
  1. Understand and accept that it will take some time to get used to your new situation, lifestyle, state of mind etc. You will not adjust to it on the same day or in the same month, it will take a while.
  1. When you are feeling doubtful, recall how you survived previous transitions and draw on the strengths you leaned on during those times.
  1. When you find yourself pondering your point of view perpetually, remember to lean on your support structure for support. A fresh perspective from people that love and care for you can do wonders for you during these times.
  1. If you’ve been dealt a blow, are uncertain and unsure of the changes you are going through, know that the situation will not be permanent. Look on the bright side of things, knowing that the situation could be worse. Look for the good in the situation (there is always a positive, even if it’s a teeny tiny one).
  1. Recall the moments you thought you were at your lowest points and how you thought you’d never survive those but you did. Remind and tell yourself that it’s the same you who will go through this transition with your mind sane and body/soul intact.
  1. Take care of yourself mentally, physically and spiritually. Eat healthy foods, love yourself and loved ones and keep praying. Get enough sleep and quell negativity around you. Don’t be holed up in an unpleasant way of thinking, go out, get fresh air, experience the sights and sounds of wherever you are. It’s amazing what the outdoors can do for your mental space.
  1. Don’t feel sorry for yourself and don’t be tempted to adopt a victim mentality. When life happens, see it as your opportunity to grow and be more self-aware. Make the best of the situation and learn from it. Think of the skills and experience you’ll gain from the transition.
  1. Be true to your feelings and express how you feel. Don’t suppress or repress the feelings you have. Happy? Sad? Dejected? Disappointed? Express it all and then keep moving along. I find talking to God either in my mind or verbally helps me a lot. Tips on how to do that here.
  1. Take things easy. One of my favourite mantras is ‘a day at a time’. Sometimes, multitasking is at our own detriment, focus on one thing and take some pressure off yourself.
  1. Keep an open mind. The spoof that is sometimes in having a ‘rigid’ 5, 10, 15-year plan has caused a lot of heartache for a lot of people. When life doesn’t go according to our plans and the way we want it to, it’s easy to be disappointed. Stay open to what life has to offer you. I often view my life retrospectively and how far I have developed is always mind-blowing to me.
  1. Be grateful for where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going and even when it seems hard, don’t let the anticipation for the next stage in life die down.
  1. And finally, don’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh at yourself and your mistakes. I honestly believe that finding the humour in situations is a way of being kind to one’s self so please, don’t be so hard on yourself and take things in their strides.

I’ll leave you with the words of Joseph Campbell who said that

opportunities to find deeper powers within us come when life seems most challenging and we must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us”.

But more resounding is this famous quote of Lao Tzu which says, “new beginnings are often disguised as painful endings”. May  2019 be a year of new beginnings for you and may you find the strength to navigate the transitions coming your way in the next 11 months.

Until we chat again, take good care of yourself.



Image: Pixabay


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