I’m going through a big transition right now. My family and I are preparing to move back to the United States after a year in Spain. In September, my oldest son will start kindergarten at our local elementary school, and I’ll finally be in the same time zone as most of my clients. (Yay!)
Even though I’m excited by the move, my brain does not like transitions. It feels anxious, overwhelmed, and restless when facing big transitions and it’s downright uncomfortable. It tells me things like “This is why most people don’t move their families overseas! This is hard! I don’t like hard!”
And sometimes I indulge my brain by allowing thoughts like this and feeling all the negative emotions that those thoughts create. But I find it’s not really useful to stay in this space for a long time.
Life is full of transitions, whether it’s a new baby in the family, a new job, or a big move. The better you can cope with them, the more resilient you’ll be. Here’s what I do to cope with big transitions.
Think of The Transition as An Opportunity
My uncle climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro when he was in his late sixties. He trained for over a year by carrying a backpack with 50 pounds of weights in it every day as he walked around his neighborhood, which was only 1200 feet above sea level. He also wore that backpack when practicing climbing 30 flights of stairs at his office building. When he actually went to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, he didn’t need to take a heavy backpack because he hired porters to carry his supplies.
But training with that 50-pound pack allowed him to build the strength he needed to climb a 19,000-foot mountain.
Operating during a transition period is like carrying a 50-pound pack on your back. Yes, things are harder when you’re in transition. Yes, your brain will complain and want things to return to “normal.” But if you embrace the transition and treat it as an opportunity, you’ll find that you will be stronger and more resilient than you were before. You’ll be able to adapt to the “new normal.” Even when it feels like there’s very little oxygen, you’ll be able to keep moving forward and summit the mountain you’re climbing.
Be Super Nice To Yourself
A transition period is not the time to launch a new podcast (ask me how I know) or have a dinner party or take on any other project that is not absolutely necessary.
During transitions, it’s best to allow yourself to lower your expectations to what I call your minimum baseline. What is the absolute minimum that you need to do to keep yourself, your job, and your family going?
Think of this like what happens during a government shutdown. The basic services are covered but nothing new is being created or investigated and you can’t visit the National Zoo.
Decide what your minimum baseline looks like and then stick to it. It will be your guide and help you make decisions during tumultuous times.
For example, your minimum baseline might be that you forego cooking and order take-out for a few weeks to make your life easier. Or maybe you just cook a few large meals each week and eat leftovers the other nights.
In your job, what’s the very minimum that must be done? Finding out what deadlines at work are negotiable and which ones aren’t can be really useful during this time. Is the Court willing to grant an extension for the filing? Is the client able to wait an extra week for the project? Sometimes these extensions are readily granted and it can make everyone’s lives easier. (Sometimes they’re not, but you never know unless you ask.)
You can also set a minimum baseline for taking care of your health. For example, you can make it non-negotiable that you will get at least seven hours of sleep or that you’ll get outside for a five-minute walk at least once a day. Transitions might feel like you’re in survival mode, but part of surviving includes getting rest, food, and moving your body.
Let It Be Hard
We spend a tremendous amount of mental energy arguing with reality, as Byron Katie would say. We don’t like things to be hard and we have a lot of thoughts that life shouldn’t be so hard.
But the path of least resistance (which is the path you want to be on when you’re going through a transition) requires accepting things the way they are. If you let the transitions be hard, then you don’t have to argue or fight against them. You can just allow them to be hard.
Because you can do hard things.
You’ve done hard things before. You’ll do them again. Embrace and accept what is right now.
Practice this by repeating thoughts such as: “This feels hard and that’s okay. Nothing’s gone wrong here. I can do hard things.”
Notice how you feel. Is it better than resisting? Is it better than arguing?
I thought so. It certainly is for me.
I’ll see you on the other side of my big transition. Until then, have a beautiful week!