When Minor Transitions Feel Majorly Disruptive

Esther Benoit, PhD, LPC (VA & TX), NCC, ACS on Feb 03, 2023 in Mood and Feelings

Most of us are aware of the toll that major life transitions can take on our overall health and sense of well-being. Major transitions might include things like a move to a new city, the start or end of a significant relationship, graduations, retirement, or bringing home a new family member. With major transitions, we tend to anticipate a certain level of stress. Be it good or bad, we tend to brace for the disruption that we know is headed our way. With minor transitions, however, we often underestimate the impact on our day-to-day experience. In the course of a year, think about some of the minor transitions you might experience. These might include things like:

  • Change in seasons/daylight saving time
  • The end of a school year/beginning of summer schedule for families with school-aged kids
  • Change or disruption in routine
  • Minor illness
  • Unexpected financial expense

These bumps in the road may not seem all that disruptive, but when you consider how they fit into the overall picture of your life, they can quickly begin to stack up.

Often, when stressors start to pile on, the first thing to drop a few notches on our list is our own self-care. When the laundry is piling up, our routines are disrupted, and the sun isn't out long enough for us to take our usual evening walk, we tend not to think about how we can take better care of ourselves. Survival mode kicks in, and things like anxiety and depression can flare up.

So how do we learn to take time for ourselves in the midst of everyday disruptions?

Having a tool kit with helpful stress management strategies prepared ahead of time can set us up for success. Building this toolkit can start with an exploration of the things that help you feel recharged and renewed.

Take a few moments to consider what helps you re-energize. What types of activities help you feel grounded or relaxed? Some ideas for strategies that seem to be useful might include things like:

  • Going for a walk
  • Cooking
  • Spending time with friends or family members
  • Playing or snuggling with pets
  • Exercising
  • Listening to music
  • Doing something creative
  • Meditation
  • Reading a book

Once you've identified the activities that help you relax and step back, write them down and consider how much time/effort/cost is associated with each one. After a long day at work, coming home at 5 pm in the winter might mean that an outdoor walk is less appealing — you might decide to have different tools in your kit based on season or other factors. When you are away from home for an extended period of time, spending time with loved ones or even pets can be a challenge. With each of your strategies, think of ways you can adapt these to your situation.

Building a reference list of things that help you to recharge is an excellent way to anticipate life's next turbulent moment, and it can help you to feel prepared when those minor transitions start to feel majorly disruptive.

Esther Benoit is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Newport News, VA.

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