The semester is over! Perhaps you are graduating. For months you have been waiting for this day, the time when the responsibilities and the stress of academic demands finally ends. But now you are wondering, “Why don’t I feel happier?” “Why am I feeling so anxious?”
It is important to recognize that you are experiencing a period of transition. Since life is a process of beginnings and endings, transitions are a normal part of life and as natural as the changing seasons. But life transitions are always challenging because they force us to let go of the familiar and face a future that is often uncertain. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, so we are anxious when our lives are disrupted. Our journey into the future is taking us from the familiar to the unknown. Since our future may be filled with questions, it is normal to feel afraid.
Most life transitions begin with a string of losses, the loss of a role, the loss of a person or group of people, the loss of a place and the loss of your sense of where you fit in the world. And like change, loss makes us feel fearful and anxious. On the positive side, transitions give us a chance to learn about our strengths, explore what we really want from life and assess the direction we intend to travel. It can be a time of reflection that results in an increased sense of peace, renewal and growth.
Coping with a transition is a personal experience and what works for one person may not be helpful for another. However, certain general guidelines can be offered regarding how to deal with life transitions and make the process more rewarding.
Accept that change is a normal part of life. Seeing change as something to be avoided makes transition periods more difficult to navigate.
Expect to feel uncomfortable. A time of transition is confusing and disorienting. It is normal to feel insecure and anxious. These feelings are part of the process.
Determine ways to make your transition a gradual process. As early as possible, begin to think about what it will mean to leave the current phase of your life so that you can adequately prepare yourself and relish your time.
Be mindful. Spend time reflecting, reviewing and reminiscing on your life and the current transition. Share with others how you feel about them and what their absence in your life will mean to you. Although bittersweet, it can leave you (and others) with a special feeling about your relationships, and, more generally, the phase of your life that is ending.
Give yourself the gift of time. When your life is disrupted, it takes time to adjust to a new reality. Take all the time you need to acknowledge the endings in your life and to make the most of your transitions.
Be grateful and hopeful. Treasure and be grateful for the special memories of important relationships and activities. Rejoice in what you have learned and how you have grown through the phase of your life that is now ending. Be hopeful about what you will be starting next in life while realistically acknowledging the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead.
“Now, Voyager, sail forth to seek and find.” —Walt Whitman
— Sandy Bumgardner, Psy.D.
Sandy Bumgardner, Psy.D., is a psychologist on staff at CHC’s Counseling Center, which offers free, short and long-term, confidential therapy to CHC students. Contact her at 215-248-7104, ext. 4, or firstname.lastname@example.org.