What is a life transition?
Change is tough, and life transitions – such as moving to a new area, transitioning into or out of a relationship, adjusting to parenting for the first time, or changing careers – can be difficult.
It’s normal, even adaptive, to feel a certain amount of stress in the midst of a transition. Our bodies and minds are adjusting to a new way of being, and that period of change may feel unsettling and uncomfortable. Sometimes, however, the period of transition gets in the way of a healthy lifestyle. In such instances, the feelings that accompany transitions can become serious enough to warrant further examination.
What mental health conditions might life transitions lead to?
While “life transitions” is not a clinical diagnosis itself, troubles adjusting to the transitions and changes can lead to diagnosable mental health conditions, such as adjustment disorder, major depressive disorder, and general anxiety disorder.
Adjustment disorders might be diagnosed in someone who becomes more distressed by a change than they might have expected, especially if this stress gets in the way of their relationships, jobs, or schoolwork for months after the transition has resolved. It can occur in both children and adults and a diagnosis might follow transitions such as a new marriage or divorce, a family crisis, illness, the birth of a child, financial problems, or job loss.
What are indications of troubles adjusting to a life transition?
Difficulties adjusting to a life transition may cause symptoms similar to those during other stressful experiences. These may include:
Frequent colds and infections
Significant decrease of sex drive
Either loss of appetite, or increased appetite
Feeling generally overwhelmed
More anxiety than usual
Tendency to socially isolate one’s self
What should you do if you’re struggling to cope with a life transition?
When faced with a life transition, it can be helpful to learn self-care techniques to better manage the resulting stress.
These techniques include:
Mindfulness and meditation: In the midst of a transition, take time to observe your thoughts and learn a breathing routine that can calm you when stress sets in.
Leaning on your support network: Asking for help from those who have supported you in the past can be helpful through new challenges.
Therapy: Find a therapist who can help you navigate your transition with proven tools and techniques.
And, as always, be sure during a new period to be easy on yourself: drink plenty of water and eat well, get enough sleep each night, and find time for exercise.
What should I look for in seeking a therapist for life transitions?
When addressing life transition struggles, look for a therapist who specializes in the type of life transition you’re experiencing – whether it’s adjusting to a new city, transitioning from college to work life, marriage or divorce, or navigating new parenthood. A variety of talk therapy styles can be helpful for someone in the midst of a particularly unsettling period of transition.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a common therapy modality that addresses the thoughts and feelings that different events trigger, can help with negative thought patterns and the accompanying negative feelings that may develop.
Group therapy with a group of people going through something similar can also be helpful to find support, and learn useful strategies from others who have been there themselves.
Find therapists specializing in life transitions near you: