Some major life transitions are chosen, and some happen to us without our consent, from marriages, births and new jobs, to breakups, deaths, and financial troubles. The feelings that accompany these transitions, whether positive or negative, can be overwhelming and difficult to deal with. For example, a new career can be exciting and inspiring, but it can also make us anxious about our performance, and about adapting to a new work culture. Conversely, a breakup can be heartrending and challenge our self esteem, but it can also lead to greater self-awareness, acceptance, and freedom.
Life transitions, especially those we have little or no control over, present new challenges and opportunities that represent unexplored territory. Tracking a new path can be difficult without a map as you juggle competing emotions and priorities you’ve never considered before. Perhaps you’re disagreeing with siblings over your parents’ end-of-life care, or getting used to sharing a partner with a child from a previous relationship, or living in a new city where you don’t know anyone and are struggling to meet people. In each of these cases you’re being required to tap into emotional resources you didn’t even know you had, and that can be both empowering and terrifying.
As we encounter new challenges and opportunities throughout our lives, we develop coping mechanisms for the inevitable stress and excitement that accompany them. The more significant these life changes are, the more our coping mechanisms are tested. A therapist can help you discover new strategies for managing your emotions, and strengthen your best coping mechanisms so that you don’t have to be floored by the stress of change.
If you already know that you don’t deal well with change, it can be helpful to discuss your fears with a therapist before the anticipated event so that you can embrace positive changes and steel yourself against negative ones. No matter what life brings our way, there are opportunities for growth and new discoveries about ourselves in every experience. Think of your therapist as a tour guide through this new territory who can help you get the most out of your journey while guiding you through in safety.