Change is inevitable in our life. We all know that. If nothing changed we would be – well dead. Change is fine as long as it happens to the other person. Or when we decide to choose that it is time to shift some aspect of our life for the better. We see change all around us. The sun rises and sets every day. The week begins and ends. The seasons change. The flowers on the rose bush bloom and fade. Holidays come and go. So why can some changes be so difficult and rock us to our core?
There are a few reasons. There are the changes that we take for granted. These are the ones that don’t seem to impact us and operate in the background. We generally don’t complain about our planet’s daily rotation, forming our 24-hour day. The changing of the seasons is another one. We delight in the blooming of the tulips and the return of the robin in spring. The changing of the leaves reminds us of apple cider and jumping into big piles of leaves as a kid. The first snowfall blanketing our world in white can be peaceful and soothing. These natural world phases form the fabric of our lives. Lots of changes here, very little that bothers us.
Hell in the Hallway
The events in our lives that jolt us, throw us off center and call a halt to our otherwise predictable life are the ones that can leave us stuck in the hallway. The hallway is that place in between. It can be and often is hell. Something has ended. We lost a job, we got divorced, we lost a loved one too soon, our kids left for college. Now what? This place of loss, uncertainty, grieving and imbalance is the hell in the hallway. There is light ahead. But it can be difficult to see sometimes.
Ways to Handle Transitions in Your Life
Whatever you are dealing with accept it. Often we spend a lot of time bemoaning fighting with the fact that something has happened and we don’t like it. It is difficult to accept what we don’t like. This is human nature. Just don’t dwell there too long and deny its existence. Accept the reality that your life is different now. Once you do that you can focus on what you want next.
2. Find the Gifts
In every life transition, there is plenty to receive. When someone dies, we grieve and move through the loss. When we lose a job or our children leave home, there is loss too. Finding the gifts in these events is an important piece of work that helps us move on. What did that loved one give us? Love, support, wisdom? What did you learn after leaving that job? Are there skills and talents you learned and can take with you? Now is there something that you really want to do? Your children are at college now. Take some time to acknowledge all that you gave them so they could launch successfully. They may be well hidden, but the contributions and rewards are there. Allow yourself the time to find them.
3. Expect to Feel Off Balance
When a big life event happens, especially when it is unexpected we are thrown off balance. It is quite normal to feel anxious. What is going to happen now? How will I cope with this? It can be overwhelming and exhausting. Not knowing what to do next can bring up fear and anxiety. If you know that this is part of the landscape you are in and it is normal, you may be able to tolerate the discomfort a little easier. Be extra gentle with yourself. Take time to nurture yourself. Enroll your friends and family to help you through this challenging time. You don’t have to do this by yourself.
4. Begin to Re-balance
Use some simple mind/body tools to find your ground again. Experiment with using the heart breathing technique to calm and center yourself. Place both hands over your heart, close your eyes and allow your breath to become deep and slow. Do this for one to five minutes.
You can also Try the bend over exercise to focus and feel more grounded. Stand up. Place your feet shoulder width apart. Now slowly bend over at the waist so that your head and arms are hanging loosely. Let your belly relax and keep your knees slightly bent. Breathe deeply and slowly for 1 to 5 minutes. Slowly come up to standing. Notice how you feel.
5. Reflect and Redefine
This time in the hallway is the perfect opportunity to take stock of what you left behind and allow your imagination to help you create what is next. Get a journal, pad of paper, or use your computer. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour of quiet time. Follow this process and see what happens. Close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths. Then grab your pen or keyboard and answer these questions.
A. What can I let go of that no longer serves me because of this change in my life?
B. What strengths, wisdom and skills have I developed?
C. What do I want now in my life in the areas of work, relationships, free time and spiritual time?
D. Who can help me in the new phase of my life?
Allow the answers to these questions to percolate and mature over the next few weeks. Decide what your first step is to reach that next open doorway in the hallway. Then take it!
Want to learn more?
Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door: How to Move Gracefully Through Change into Renewed and Abundant Life by Ellen Debenport
Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes, by William Bridges
How have you navigated big transitions in your life?