I’m excited to share this guest blog post on life transitions from my colleague and friend, Dr. David Hovey. I’ve known Dave for many years and have always been impressed with his ability to get to the heart of things. In this post, he talks about the inevitability of change, and ways to manage the strong emotions that can come with it.
Navigating Life Transitions
Transitions are hard but in life change is inevitable. Whether you’re considering college, a new home, divorce, a lawsuit, an inheritance, life-threatening illness or the death of a loved one, there is one certainty in all of that. Everything changes, and those changes can bring you everything from profound joy to deep sadness.
No matter what the specific change or transition is there is often a great deal of anticipation, anxiety, negotiation, re-negotiation, and eventually acceptance surrounding it. When working through change, the anticipation of the actual transition can be the most difficult part. That’s something called ‘anxiety sensitivity’, or, quite literally, being anxious about being anxious. This kind of thing is about the anticipation of the unknown. You may find yourself asking,“How will I deal with this change?”, or “What if I do not handle it gracefully?”, or “What if I am judged?”, or“What if I lose myself in this change?” As people, we often spend a great deal of time worrying about things we cannot ultimately control, which, with a little self-examination, you will find is one of the things at the heart of your emotional distress.
The Life Index Stress Scale, which is a scale created to measure common human experiences, suggest these kinds of transitions—and your reaction to them—are some of the biggest stressors you will come across in your life. The scale measures experiences on a scale of 1-100 taking into consideration numerous different factors contributing to an overall experience of stress. For some perspective, a change in living space scores a 20, pregnancy scores a 40, marriage scores a 50, and the death of a spouse scores 100. With current divorce rates right around 50%for all married American couples, which usually means a change in living arrangements, chances are a significant number of individual men and women have experienced at least these two significant stressors. We can also look at the percentage of people who have children from their initial marriage or union, then go on to remarry later in life.Mix in the need to relearn trust and boundary negotiation that happen with a new marriage or a blended family, and that’s a lot of stress to manage.
So, how do you navigate these kinds of stress-inducing changes in your life? How do you control the anxiety associated with the unknown? The answer is actually pretty simple. We take a moment to recognize we cannot control them—they are inevitable. The harder we try to control them, the more likely we are to feel powerless, only adding to our anxiety.
One effective strategy for managing this sense of powerlessness is to surround yourself with a group of trusted individuals to help you through whatever change you may be facing. Regardless of whether they help you with logistical tasks or emotional needs, having others to lean on can be tremendously helpful. If you do not have that opportunity, you might try something called emotion tracking to figure out when you are experiencing intense emotions, like anxiety or depression. This can help you to make more clear decisions. When you’re stressed, you often make decisions based on emotional reaction. Those don’t always give you the best outcomes. Learning to make more considered decisions when you’re facing change can support you in getting better outcomes.
If you’re in the midst of a change in your life, and are struggling to stay focused on positive outcomes, contact us at David Hovey and Associates to set up an appointment to determine how we can meet your needs.