Self-Care and Transitions

No one expected to know the outcome of the election by the end of the night on November 3rd. But we also didn’t anticipate being glued to our televisions, and smartphones for another four days on pins and needles waiting to find out who would lead the United States for the next four years. 2020 has been a topsy-turvy kind of year, so why would the election be any different, right?

Regardless of who you were rooting for, we are now in a state of transition. Transition - is a passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another. Transitions can be stressful. Since I’m working from home, in between working I stayed glued to my TV waiting for the election to be called, switching back and forth between the different news outlets.

The number of votes kept rolling in, and then the lawsuits from the President were filed challenging the votes cast. It was stressful. The entire week was anxiety-filled. Now a new day is dawning, time for us to come together. We are the United States after all.

Bruce Feiler wrote in his book, Life is in the Transitions, “Five Truths of Transitions.” I paraphrased his findings here in relation to self-care.

  • We’re all getting more exposure to transitions, so self-care needs to be an integrated part of each season of our life.

  • The transitions we often face have multiple paths forward, or are nonlinear. Self-care that builds our strength during this zig-zag are helpful.

  • Completing a transition, or moving from A to Z, often takes longer than we’d like it to. That process seems to be for our own good. Self-care here can look like self-compassion as we trust our process and choose not to give up.

  • The transitions we face become part of our life story. The story of our lives are often passed onto others and as such, we can share and teach the self-care skills we’ve used to succeed.

  • All lives include a series of transitions. Accepting this truth is key to being proactive and compassionate. Some transitions can be averted or magnified based on our preparedness and attitude.

Change is external. It is something that happens to you, a situation imposed by outside circumstances or unforeseen health problems. Transition is always an internal or psychological event. It is—and needs to be—an intentional reconfiguration—transformations to a new future. I’ve called this post “transition” which technically is internal. What I really should have titled this was “change” which is external and that is what is occurring, according to psychologists. But in keeping with the theme of the election and the transition to the new President, I’ll stick with the transition definition.

In this article by Kathleen Smith, Ph.D. LPC, The Psychology of Dealing with Change: How to Become Resilient she states, “Many people spend a great deal of time and energy trying to avoid change, but it will inevitably catch up to them. If you can learn to cope with change, you’ll lower your risk for anxiety and depression. Your relationships will flourish, and your body will feel healthier. But if you can’t cope with change, only a minor amount of stress can make you feel overwhelmed by life. You might also struggle to set and meet the goals you have for yourself.

No matter what kind of transition you are experiencing there are things you can do to take care of yourself. (1) Develop bite size action steps you will do to take care of yourself – if you’re looking to take a trip or make a big purchase, then start saving money. (2) Listen to your inner voice – this may take some work because Susan Ritchie calls the inner critic voice as the “doom loop” but with more listening you will find the positive messages. Ritchie is the author of Strategies for Being Brilliant, 21 Ways to be Happy, Confident and Successful. (3) Get enough rest because lack of sleep causes a whole host of health problems – high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, depression, etc. (4) Acknowledge your emotions – do not ignore the effect the transition is having on you emotionally, discuss it and deal with it, don’t hold it in. (5) Accept what you cannot control – change happens whether we like it or not and we must adapt, pivot, and adjust accordingly. Not all change is bad. It is true when one door closes another one opens, or when a door closes a window opens. Things happen for a reason, we may not understand why, but the answer will come. We just have to be open and ready for the answer when it does.