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Loving Ourselves as We Navigate Life’s Transitions

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

If we can be certain about anything in life, it is that nothing is permanent. Everything changes. In fact, it is life’s only constant. Change. In fact, change often happens when you’re not even paying attention. For me, change is all about self-love.

Consider what your life looked like a year ago and compare it to where you are today. How much of what you see today is different than what you saw a year ago? Maybe you’re living somewhere different, driving a different car, working in a different job.

Change is all around us, and yet, we humans are creatures of habit. We find comfort in routines. Structure our lives around them. Take solace in the things that we can count on being the same from day-to-day. Which is why the change that surrounds us, that is an inevitable part of life, can seem to knock us off balance. So, how do we navigate life’s many transitions—both those we welcome and those we do not—without losing our sense of well-being and comfort? How do we love ourselves in these moments?

Understand that Life’s Transitions—Good or Bad—Are Challenging…for Everyone

In all aspects of our lives, we tend to long for control. As humans, we want to be able to anticipate what’s coming so we can maintain our sense of autonomy in any situation. Biologically, we are wired for routine. Any disturbance of this routine can cause our bodies to react in ways we don’t anticipate and may not even be aware of.

For example, recent research has discovered that the first night we sleep in a new environment, only half of our brain sleeps. The left side stays on guard while the right side rests. The effects of this environmental change are so significant that many research labs doing studies that involve sleep automatically discard data from a participant’s first night. This is known as the “first-night effect,” and it is just one example of how significantly change—even minimal change—impacts us. We rely on stasis to maintain control in our lives.

But life’s transitions are often inherently out of our control. Change may happen unexpectedly, as with the sudden loss of a loved one, the revelation of some shocking betrayal, or an accident that has long term effects on your or a loved one’s life. These transitions are understandably unnerving as we find ourselves unexpectedly navigating new, unchartered territory. But even change that we anticipate—losing a loved one after a long illness, children graduating and moving away, or retiring from a lifelong career—can be equally unsettling.

We may struggle with reconciling what we imagined our life would be against our new reality and we may find ourselves begrudgingly moving into a new phase in our lives while we long for the “good old days.”

Remember an End is also a Beginning

During some of life’s more difficult transitions, we often become fixated on the ending that we are grappling with. A relationship, career, or season of life ending. But endings always lead to beginnings. Flipping this concept on its head and reflecting on what the future promises, rather than longing for the past, can help bring into focus the positive aspects of your transition. Rather than fixating on the relationship that is ending, imagine the power of focusing on the beginning of loving yourself that way you deserve to be loved. Maybe you’re sad to be leaving a job, but consider the opportunity your absence may be creating for somebody else, and for yourself. Consider the growth you can have as you navigate a new season in life.

Find Your Circle of Support

One of the biggest struggles many of us face during times of change is feeling disconnected and alone. Many transitions involve separation from groups of people that may have made up a significant portion of our social circle—divorce, changing jobs, moving, etc. In these times, we may feel alone because the people we used to spend our time with are no longer in our lives, or their presence in our life has drastically changed. As creatures, humans are inherently social. Even introverts need human connection and interaction. Finding a circle of people that you can lean on, connect with, and grow with is so important when you’re navigating life’s transitions. So, if you feel like you have lost your circle, engage with your community and find your circle.

Practice Wellness Techniques

It can be tempting to fall into unhealthy coping mechanisms when struggling with life’s transitions. Rather than seeking out and finding the joy during these difficult times, it can be much more satisfying – at least in the short-term – to turn toward methods of escape (alcohol & drug use, binge-watching, emotional eating, etc.). But finding healthy ways to cope with the tumultuous feelings of transition can help you come through life change’s a much stronger, resilient human being.

Nourish your mind and your body with a variety of wellness activities. Take up yoga, incorporate a daily meditation into your new routine, or use energy exercises (like tapping) to help diffuse tension, stress, etc. Remember to breathe, reminding yourself that the breath feeds and fuels your body just as it did before whatever change happened in your life. Amidst all of life’s changes, our breath remains constant.

Be Kind to Yourself

Whenever we navigate life’s transitions, it may be easy to become frustrated with ourselves and our new situation, whatever that may be. We may feel like we’re not handling the changes as well as we should or we may be annoyed that we are suddenly overly tired, unmotivated, irritable, or easily distracted. But as our bodies and our minds adjust to our new life, it may take time for the rest to settle down. Understand this and be compassionate toward yourself. Give yourself time to adjust, time to process, and time to heal, if it’s needed.

Shower yourself with unconditional loving acceptance of the person you are in the present as you navigate a path forward.

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