Transitions are a natural part of life, but some are easier to deal with than others. In this economy, unfortunately many seniors are forced to transition from retirement back into the workforce. It can be disheartening and frustrating, but there are steps you can take to make it an easier time. Here are eight tips for navigating life’s transitions.
1) Realize that transitions are inevitable. There is no use in wasting energy to stop the changes. Like puberty or widowhood, these naturally occurring events must happen. Try to accept the change.
2) Another choice: Instead of being passive and letting changes occur, try to be active by anticipating what could happen, how you could make it better, and how to solve problems as they surface.
3) Adjust your usual schedule around the transitions. For instance, one patient of mine always had trouble sleeping as winter passed into spring. I suggested that she set her alarm to wake up earlier so that the light shining through her curtains didn’t disturb her as much and she was more in control of her sleep/wake cycle.
4) Take the time to acknowledge the past, the present, and what you believe is the future. This time out may feel like a waste, but it will allow perspective on the situation. One of my patients was unemployed for seven months. We discovered that she was constantly accusing herself of inadequate work skills, blaming herself for being fired, even though it was clear that her company had downsized. She was able to examine the origin of this problem from the past, take inventory of her present abilities, and finally let herself look forward to her future.
5) If you find that anger or sadness, or some other strong emotion, is holding you back, acknowledge the emotion. Many of us are constantly stuffing emotions, especially negative ones, because our society reinforces logic and intellect over any emotion, even happiness. These emotions are pathways to a deep intuitive part of ourselves that needs to surface and be dealt with.
6) If you are able to break the transitions into smaller pieces you may deal with them better. For instance, a high-school student who is graduating in June may go and visit the college she will be attending in the fall. Then she can talk with students who have been to college, she can decide what classes she would like to attend, etc. When a major change is broken down in this way, it is not so overwhelming.
7) Reinforce each positive step you take towards the transition. A patient of mine was frightened of moving into a supervisor’s position. She followed my suggestions of crediting herself as she advanced. When she was given more responsibility she gave herself credit for being able to handle the new work. Then after she attended a supervisor conference and did well, she celebrated the event by having dinner with some colleagues.
8) Educate yourself about what this transition means to you. For instance, a woman going into menopause read about the topic and understood as much of the biology as she could. She realized that menopause for her meant she wouldn’t have to worry about birth control or deal with messy periods anymore.
Remember and follow these steps, and you will be able to navigate any transition life throws at you.