Sometimes, it helps to remember that no one, young or old, likes change. You are not alone if you feel overwhelmed. The thing is, you can beat the transition blues, and its demoralising effect on you.
This story begins when I was just seven years old. I was in the middle of a huge change: the end of my first day, mid-term, at a new school in inner-city Melbourne. But on the way home, I looked out the tram window and panicked. Oh, no! That was where I should have got off!
Quickly, I pulled the cord, high above my head, but it was too late – it sailed onward. The tram would wait for no man – not even for a little girl. My heart was in my mouth as we travelled slowly up the busy road in the after-school crush.
It had been an exciting start to my first day in a completely unfamiliar suburb. Imagine riding a tram to school! My mother had shown me what to do when we caught the tram to my new school that morning. But she hadn’t told me what to do if something went wrong. The trip home seemed to be turning into a disaster.
What to do? What to do? Knowing I couldn’t get off until the next stop, I waited at the door, but it seemed to take forever to get there. And each second took me further away from the one tiny pocket of familiar streets.
The tram went on, trundling past the glassy-doored cinema on the right; past the end of that other busy street on the left. I didn’t even know its name! The tram kept on going all the way up the hill, to the next set of traffic lights. I think I was in shock.
Finally, the tram stopped. Feeling quite sick, I picked up my school bag nestled at my feet, jumped off, and bolted. I ran as fast as my seven-year-old legs would carry me. Down the hill. I reached a busy T-intersection. I could see the name now. “Burwood Rd,” the street sign read. I scooted past the cinema across the road with its big glass doors. And finally, I got back to the pedestrian crossing where I should have got off. I paused, waiting for the traffic to stop, itching to cross over. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Finally, a car stopped to let me cross the road. Close to tears, I ran for all I was worth. I took the corner towards my house – away from the tram line, and the cars, and the noise – and kept running. All the way to our new, still unfamiliar, tiny dead-end street.
And there was home! Bursting into tears, I galloped inside. Only to find my parents patiently unpacking boxes. Dad had a few days off work to help with our big move.
- “I got lost!” I blurted out. But it was like they didn’t even hear me.
- “Hello, Darling, how was your day?” Could they not see I was upset?
- “I missed the stop, and got off the tram way up the hill, and I ran all the way home!” More blurting. I couldn’t believe they were so calm!
- “Well, everything’s alright now, Dear. How was school? Would you like some afternoon tea?” I swallowed my panic, shook off my tears, and pulled myself together.
- “Yes, please,” was all I could manage. What an anti-climax. I got lost!
The transition blues are awful
All this happened after a very long first day at my new school. I’d met a new, stooped-over teacher. She was in place of the young, pretty one I’d loved, and who left the week before. There were odd new songs to sing in music. And I had two new friends – girls who were “assigned” to me, but who didn’t think to play with me at recess. I felt very alone.
It was such a relief to be home – but it was such a blow to my pride that I’d missed the tram stop.
Clearly, my parents wondered what all the fuss was about. There I was, at home safe and sound. To them it was a successful outcome. But to me, in my fast-beating-heart, adrenalin-rushing state, it was something it took a while to recover from.
They didn’t think about how big a change it was, nor did they understand I had the transition blues. Words such as, “You are not alone” could have been very powerful – when all you feel is out of sorts, and unfamiliar territory.
It might even have become a special moment to treasure. But that memory, stored away in my brain, only reminds me of a bad start to my new school.
Have you ever had the transition blues?
Change is a fact of life. Whether starting at a new school (maybe mid-term, like I did that day in grade two), beginning a new job, or turning up at a new gym, transitions are rarely easy to navigate. It doesn’t matter if you are seven, 17 or 70, moving into new and unknown territory is uncomfortable at best, and downright terrifying at worst.
Any time of year, people are adjusting to new things, and suffer the transition blues:
- People begin new jobs.
- Brand-new mothers weep at this alien in their home.
- Relief teachers take on unknown classrooms.
- Surprised widows and widowers come to grips with life alone.
- Overwhelmed refugees arrive in their new home country.
All of them struggle with change. With the transition blues.
Be aware of others feeling overwhelmed
Kindness goes a long way for people in new situations, who are managing change. It’s a good thing to give new people a break, be friendly, smile, and show them the ropes. You would be grateful if someone did that for you.
Tell them, “This is just a transition. You are not alone!” Make it a moment for a good memory.
The thing is, change is such a fact of life that even in the natural world, transition is the normal course of things. Caterpillars go through an amazing transition as they spend time in a chrysalis – only to emerge days later, as a butterfly. Their emerging takes hours as they struggle. And it doesn’t look pretty, even though the final result is often stunning. Watch the Monarch butterfly metamorphosis video below to see it happening:
So change and its best buddy transition are everywhere. Overwhelmed? The good news is: You are not alone!
5 ways to manage the transition blues
This is how to beat feeling overwhelmed:
1. Have patience!
This is the “new normal”. One day this will be your usual routine. So feeling overwhelmed will not last forever. Like a butterfly emerging, it’s a temporary discomfort. The thing is to push through the uncomfortableness to get to the next phase. That’s when things start to feel normal again.
2. Prepare as best as you can
My mother did what she could in preparation for that tram ride. And it was enough because I found my way home. So, while she tried to prepare me, she couldn’t possibly cover every contingency. And you can’t either. But you can prepare as best as you can.
On the upside? I never missed the tram stop after that.
3. Forgive yourself if you struggle
It’s normal to feel extreme emotions. Research shows that new students in transition can experience nervousness, headaches, nausea, weariness, sleeplessness, lack of appetite and more. My first-day story is very normal.
However, transition impacts many more than just students. Be understanding of yourself, your partner and your children when they are in transition. These things will pass. Remind them that they will get past these transition blues.
4. Learn from this experience!
I did learn from that extreme first day. As a result of my mid-term school move in grade two, I decided my children would not repeat my history. In the end, they moved schools rarely, and it was only ever between school years.
So, you can learn too. What can you take away from your uncomfortable transition to help yourself next time – or help the next generation?
5. Pray to God to help you out
It’s helpful to remember this as you beat the transition blues. You are not alone! What a relief to understand that Jesus is with you. He is the same – yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
He will be your rock when you feel unstable; your friend when you feel lonely; and your peace in the turmoil. Let Him love you through feeling overwhelmed. Stop. Breathe. Pray. You are enough.
You are not alone:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 – NIV)
Article supplied with thanks to Treasuring Mothers.
About the author: Married with five children, and three adorable grandkids, Jenny is an accomplished writer, manager and board director with a heart for motherhood.