Preparing and Managing Transitions
Have you noticed the shift? A subtle change that marks the departure of summer? Is it the breeze being slightly cooler or is the absence of children playing outside as they resumed their scholastic obligations? For better or worse, school is back in session. For students, this can be a big change compared to laxer curfews and responsibilities that make up the summer. Now there’s homework and after school activities that come along with advancing another school year. It’s a splash of cold water to the face moving back into a highly structured routine. For parents too, this transition can be quite radical. Sure, it may offer piece of mind knowing your child is under supervision of the school, but school isn’t only the responsibility of the child. Parent involvement is key to academic success and that means considering the role required.
This is just one example of how quickly structure can shift within one’s life, and when one-piece moves, others are sure to shift along with it. When change comes stress may be a natural part of the process as we adapt to new circumstances. How we manage that stress can be crucial to how we approach change in the future. How we cope with change can be the difference in how we approach it.
Preparation in itself can be a skill. Anticipating stress triggers or simply knowing what coping skills we have at our disposal can build confidence as we enter into uncertain situations. What coping strategies are you aware of for yourself right now? If you have a few you can pull out on a whim, that’s great! If it was challenging coming up with any on the fly, no worries. Let’s review some of my go-tos that can be utilized in many common situations as well as more complex adjustments.
Yes, how could we not start off with mindfulness. The building blocks for many evidenced based therapeutic modalities including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. While it’s common to think of mindfulness as meditation, that is not necessarily true. Mindfulness simply is our ability to stay in the here and now. This includes being present with our bodily sensations and our thoughts without having our thoughts drag us out of the moment.
Mindfulness can be key at bringing awareness to what is going on including an understanding that a coping strategy may be needed in the moment. There are grounding techniques that implement mindfulness. These can help us center ourselves, even through the rise of powerful emotions such as panic or anger.
Five Senses: A classic technique that utilizes the senses to keep us in the moment. What are five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste? All may not apply but give it a try and see what you may not have noticed before!
Deep Breathing: A very effective way to recenter yourself can be through our breath. Something that we already do automatically but see what you notice when you mindfully follow the breath’s journey. This can be done through slowly drawing a long breath through our noses down into our lungs which fill and expand before we let the breath out our mouths. There are many phone apps and YouTube videos that can guide you through this process. It can be supportive in relaxing and grounding.
Mindful Activities: In a day and age where it can be very easy to be swept up in our phones or screens, doing something by itself wholly on its own can feel a bit uncomfortable. However, this can now be an opportunity to get some mindful experience. Washing the dishes, going for a walk, and even eating can all be mindfully experienced.
Compromising through Compassion
As the time progresses and the seasons change, so too might our priorities. The gym can be a reliable, albeit sometimes crowded place to release tension in the winter. However, time spent there may lessen in place of increased outdoor activities in the summer. A disruption in a valued routine could produce feelings of guilt or loss. If not properly processed, we could potentially end up coping maladaptively, blaming ourselves or distorting the situation.
Developing perspective and understanding can allow for further self-compassion.
Positive Affirmations: The journey to conjure up positive thoughts of oneself can start off awkward and clunky, but isn’t that true of most skill building? This skill allows us to draw positive perspective and understanding more easily as opposed to entering into one of many negative thinking traps. Create five positive statements you can tell yourself (that you believe to a degree!).
The 2 for 1: We cannot control every thought streaming through our consciousness. However, like positive affirmations, we have the ability to bring certain thoughts to the forefront. The 2 for 1 is a technique where for each negative thought of self or situation, we identify two things we have gratitude for despite it. Another way to keep us encouraged and moving towards what matters in our lives.
A final suggestion is a simple one, but not always apparent in our mind. Checking in with yourself can be an important step in identifying what is important in the moment. Asking yourself questions can be important in evaluating new sets of circumstances associated with change. Questions such as: Is this really what’s important to me right now? Can I offer myself grace and compassion? Is there a way to compromise my own needs as well as the needs of my loved ones? The answer to these questions may not be readily apparent, but by evoking reflection, our perspective and understanding builds.
Change comes in many different forms. Sometimes expected, sometimes not at all in challenging ways. If you are think it could be beneficial to learn more skills and more ways to cope with change then consider contacting us here at the Chicago Counseling Center. Our licensed therapists can support you with your journey of change as you find the path to higher resiliency with your mental health.