2 Tips for Taking Care of Your Mental Health During Life Transitions
Life transitions can be defined as any time period of change that impacts your life in a big way. This could be a change we have some choice around like the decision to change careers, start a new school program, or a change in relationship status. It can also be a change that happens completely unexpectedly like a loss of a loved one or coping with a medical issue. Some transitions we in part “choose” are often still layered with complication, pain, grief and aspects we don't have control over like within deciding to move, divorce, or parenthood. Big life transitions can leave us feeling like we’ve landed in a new life. It’s as if we were going down a path, a door opened, and we stepped through (or it may even feel like we were thrown through) the door. Once we land, we can’t deny that the new road looks different… that we’re different… and that we are going to be navigating a period of time that will change and shape us.
There’s no blueprint for what's “normal” to expect, feel, or experience during a life transition as every person and situation is unique… but we can aim to be intentional about how we take care of ourselves through it. Here are two tips for transition care and a note about what to do when it's hard to do those things.
Focus on the basics of your health. Prioritizing things like sleep schedule, eating, drinking water, and healthy movement can be game changers during life transitions. This feels simple in some ways, but it can be difficult to put into action during times like these. The more you care for your basic physical needs, the more mental health capacity you will have to experience the emotions and stressors ahead of you.
Tips: Carry a water bottle with you so you have a better chance of drinking throughout the day. Try following good sleep hygiene tricks (like less screen time at night and abstaining from alcohol). Set an alarm clock on your phone to remind you to do things that you may be struggling with like taking deep breaths or having a snack. The goal is not to “get more sleep” or “drink more water,” but to do a few things that make it more likely and possible for these intentions to happen.
Identify something that helps you feel “grounded.” If we’re going with the “thrown through a door” metaphor regarding life transitions… we may imagine that on the other side of our new path are some different or even treacherous conditions. It may be rocky, raining, or even feel like you’ve landed in a tornado. Leaning into grounding practices can feel like a bit of extra steadiness in the storm. They are you grabbing for something to hold on to, even while the wind is whipping around you.
Tips for grounding:
-Pick a reminder phrase like an affirmation or encouragement and place it somewhere for you to see (example: place a “this too shall pass” post-it on the refrigerator).
-Use music, nature, and other sensory activities (example: make a point to put twinkle lights up for a spark of calm in your home space).
-Lean into prayer, reading books/poems/quotes, astrology, or whatever allows you to connect to comfort and meaning.
The goal is not that you will always (or even ever!) feel 100% grounded as a result of these things, but that you’re engaging in things that feel like inviting groundedness. Ask yourself… what could make me feel 5% more grounded/calm/connected today? And try to do that thing. Even stopping mid-day to grab some breaths in the sunlight or stick your feet in the grass matters and can feel like “medicine” during these times.
Now that I’ve given you things “to-do” during a time when it can be most hard to do more things… I will be real about what to do when these things feel hard to do. Along with these tips… we may just need to fall into the arms, support, and help of other people. The most important thing we need as humans in these moments is to not feel alone. If you have supportive people in your life… let them in in whatever way you can. If you feel like you need more resources or social support… you may consider reaching out about therapy, joining a support group, contacting your doctor, or contacting a local support hotline that is available 24/7 like calling “988.”
When you are "in it" it can be hard to see life on the other side. It's so important to keep in mind that transition periods can include and lead to meaning, beauty, and fulfillment in many ways… especially if we are vulnerable enough to pour into ourselves and lean on others.
Blog post written by Bridget Caragher, LCSW, CDWF and Green Door Therapy Co-Founder.