How to Go Through Life Transitions Well: 5 Psychologist Tips

By Clare BruceWednesday 31 Aug 2016Hope Mornings

Listen: Psychologist Collett Smart gives tips on how to cope with change.

It’s surprising the mixture of emotions you can go through, when you’re in a state of change. And it doesn’t matter whether that change is a positive or negative one, according to psychologist Collett Smart.

Confusion, grief, anger, disorientation, self-doubt and anxiety are some of the moods you may experience, even during a celebrated milestone like the birth of a child, a career move or a marriage.

“It’s important to recognise that none of us can avoid transitional phases in our lives,” she said.

“We go through life seasons. Like changing from school to tertiary education, starting work, changing jobs, getting married, having a baby, going back to work after a baby, going into retirement—or migration.”

“Even your children growing into their teen years can bring a whole emotional and physical change to your home.”

Strategies for Coping with Change

Young woman packing up and leaving her job

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Collett says a cocktail of conflicting emotions during change is normal, and that they will pass. She advises people to try the following strategies to cope with change well.

Tip 1 – Accept the Fact That Change Will Happen

“Recognise that transitions will come, and know that they are hard,” Collett said. “They’re difficult. But be kind to yourself.”

She suggests taking steps to care for yourself, such as:

  • Getting some exercise
  • Making sure you get enough sleep
  • Finding things to do that you still love
  • Doing familiar activities to bring a sense of ‘normal’ amongst unfamiliarity
  • Feel free to say ‘no’ to new requests that place more demand on you
Tip 2 – Learn to Let Go
CHANGE spelt out on wooden background

CHANGE spelt out on wooden background

“Reflect fondly on the past, but accept that you can’t go back and you need to mentally move forward,” Collett said. “Then start looking for positive aspects.”

By making a list of the benefits of your new situation, you will find it easier to have an optimistic outlook.

Tip 3 – Remind Yourself Why You Chose This Change (If You Chose It)

Collett suggests writing down the reasons that led you to make the change you now find yourself experiencing. This will help you to accept the fact that life is now different.

“Write three things on a piece of paper, stick it on your fridge and reflect daily about why you chose the change,” she said.

Tip 4 – Reflect on Other Changes You Have Done Well

Woman having a break from painting a room

By journalling or thinking about other changes you have made in the past, and done well, you may gain insights into how you can navigate your current transition too.

“Remember what you did during those times that helped you through,” Collett says.

Tip 5 – Have A Good Support System

When you feel like you’re on shifting sand, it’s essential to have someone you can talk through and process your experiences with.

“Find people that help you feel secure, like a good friend that you can talk with or Skype, or a mother’s group you can go to for support, or find a good counsellor that can help you through this transition phase,” Collett said.

“The discomfort will pass, and that’s what you need to remind yourself.”

About Collett Smart

Collett Smart is a consultant psychologist, qualified teacher, lecturer, author, wife and mother of three children. She writes on many issues affecting families, at collettsmart.com.

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