Mental Health
8 Ways to Manage Major Life Transitions

8 Ways to Manage Major Life Transitions

6 min read

·

Jareena Silva

Life transitions can be difficult to cope with, especially when they are unexpected or sudden. Whether you are transitioning from high school to college, starting a new job, or moving to a new city, it is important to have the right tools in place to help you cope. 

What are life transitions?

Life transitions are periods of transformation in our lives that mark the beginning of something new. Whether it's the start of a new job, a move to a different city, or a major life event such as a marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child, life transitions can be exciting and overwhelming all at once. They can cause us to feel a range of emotions, from fear and excitement to joy and sadness. 

Examples of Life Transitions: 

  • Living on your own for the first time
  • Experiencing a separation/divorce
  • Getting married/starting a new long-term relationship
  • Becoming a parent
  • Experiencing grief and loss
  • Significant changes in your health
  • Major career change
  • Graduating from school

How do life transitions affect me?

Experiencing a significant life transition can be incredibly stressful. When the stress becomes too much to bear, it can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. Turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms can make it seem impossible to cope with change. 

Stress caused by change can lead to both physical and mental symptoms, which can take a toll on your wellbeing if you are not managing it in a healthy manner. If you are highly stressed, you may feel irritable, anxious, fearful, worried, or lonely. 

Physical symptoms of high stress may include: 

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Panic attacks
  • Chest pains or high blood pressure
  • Digestive issues
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension 
  • Substance abuse

If you feel like you are in crisis and in a life-threatening situation, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. If your issue is an emergency, call 91 or go to your nearest emergency room.

Ways to Manage Life Transitions

Major life transitions can be overwhelming and stressful. Knowing how to manage life changes and stressors is important in keeping you healthy and maintaining your overall well being. Every person will have their own coping mechanisms that best serve them. However, here are a few things you can try that may help you manage the life transitions you are currently experiencing. 

Journal

Journaling is keeping a written record of your experiences, feelings, and thoughts. Keeping a record of your thoughts and feelings can help you process your emotions and help with self-reflection. Journaling works best when done consistently, but even occasional, sporadic journaling can be stress relieving when the practice is focused on gratitude or emotional processing.

Benefits of Journaling: 

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Being mindful involves incorporating breathing exercises, utilizing guided imagery, and other techniques to ease the mind and body, ultimately reducing stress, worry, and exhaustion.

A few structured mindfulness exercises include body scans, breathing exercises, and meditation. An example breathing exercise you can try today is box breathing. 

Box Breathing

Visualize a box. Take a deep inhale for 4 seconds as you breathe up the box. Hold your breath for 4 seconds and visualize moving across the box. Slowly exhale for 4 seconds as you move down the box. And then hold for another 4 seconds as you move across, completing the box. Repeat 4 times!

Go to therapy

Going to a therapist can provide you with insight, perspective, and coping strategies, helping you to gain a better understanding of yourself and your relationships. Regardless of what type of life transition you are experiencing, a trained mental health provider can offer you tools and guidance to support you in your transition. 

For example, if you’re getting into a new long-term romantic relationship, you and your therapist can talk about attachment styles, how to communicate effectively, and work through any past trauma that you may have experienced in previous relationships. 

Finding the right therapist can be an intimidating task. You may be wondering where to begin, where to look, or what to look for. Learn how MyWellbeing can help you find a provider based on preferences that are important to you such as age, areas of expertise, and location. 

If you’re ready to start therapy now, take our brief match questionnaire to share your preferences and receive up to 3 provider recommendations. 

Explore a New Hobby

Adopting hobbies can be a beneficial addition to therapy, medication, and good self care when it comes to working towards mental wellness, particularly during life transitions that can lead to anxiety or depression.

Research conducted in New Zealand uncovered that engaging in activities that stimulate one's creative side can lead to improved mental health over the long run. Those who took part in the study reported feelings of positivity and elation after a few days of creative activity.

Example hobbies to consider exploring: 

  • Cooking or baking
  • Language learning
  • Gardening
  • Jogging or running
  • Photography
  • Playing an instrument
  • Painting
  • Playing a sport

Build a Support System

A support system is a group of people who provide you with support when you need it most. This can be mental, emotional, and or practical, such as with finances, childcare, etc. They are also there when things are going well to sustain you and keep you going.

People in your support system should care for you, show you compassion, love you, be there for you, and be stable. And you should do the same for them—relationships are a two-way street.

Starting to build a support system can be hard, but there are different ways to look for people that you feel you can lean on. For example, meeting people through a fitness class or mutual hobby. 

Improve your sleep hygiene

Getting a good night's sleep is absolutely essential for your mental wellbeing. During sleep, your brain is able to go through processes that help it work at its absolute best. If you don't get enough quality rest, you may experience memory loss, irritability, and depression. Prolonged sleep deprivation can even lead to serious health conditions, and can even be the cause of fatal drowsy driving accidents.

Most adults need 7 or more hours of good-quality sleep on a regular schedule each night. Getting enough sleep isn’t only about total hours of sleep. It’s also important to get good-quality sleep on a regular schedule so you feel rested when you wake up.

Building a “sleep toolkit” can help you improve your sleep hygiene and stick to a consistent sleep schedule. 

Practice healthy eating habits

Having a positive relationship with food means that you can enjoy all types of food without feeling guilty or restricted. You should be able to eat whatever makes you feel good, both physically and mentally, and all foods should be viewed as neither "good" nor "bad".

A good relationship with food has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of your diet or the types of food you eat, but rather how and why you choose the foods you eat.

Mindful eating may be a good place to start if you’re looking to improve your eating habits. Mindful eating goes beyond the individual. It also encompasses how what you eat affects the world. There are different components to eating mindfully such as being intentional with your shopping list, trying new foods or ingredients to see how your body feels or reacts to it, and eating slowly. 

Practice self-care

In the past few years, there has been a surge in the self-care industry, leading to the misconception that self-care must always be expensive and time-consuming, and should only be done once we’ve reached our breaking point. In truth, self-care is most effective when it becomes a normal part of our everyday lifestyle, used as a preventative measure rather than a reactionary one.

Self-care isn’t one size fits all. Exploring what self-care activities best serves you is important in creating your self-care routine as you manage different life transitions. Additionally, your self-care shouldn’t bring you stress. 

Self-care activities you can try today: 

  • Taking a warm bath or shower
  • Listen to your favorite song or playlist
  • Journal about your day, emotions you’re feeling, or things you’re grateful for
  • Take a short social media break
  • Call or text a loved one
  • Do a breathing exercise
  • Have a dance party by yourself or with someone
  • Tidy your space

Major life transitions can be both exciting and daunting, and while they may bring growth, they can also cause feelings of uncertainty and fear. And, sometimes people experience different life changes simultaneously, leaving us feeling incredibly overwhelmed. 

During these moments of change, it’s important to feel grounded and safe as you explore these new areas of your life. If you are interested in the support of a mental health professional, take our brief match questionnaire to share your preferences and receive up to 3 provider recommendations.

Download MyWellbeing's 2023 Mental Health Planner!
Thank you! Your download was sent to your email.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.
Think this could help someone?
Share it with your network!
Want more helpful content like this sent to your inbox weekly?
Click here to sign up for the MyWellbeing Newsletter!

Recommended Reading

Author's headshot

About the author

Jareena is MyWellbeing's Community Manager and is dedicated to supporting MyWellbeing's providers in order for them to offer the best possible care for you. Jareena is a mental health advocate and aims to identify ways to destigmatize discussions around mental health and how to make care more accessible.

Find the right therapist or coach for you

Complete our free, confidential questionnaire to easily and quickly match with 3 personalized coaches or therapists.

Get matched