“All change is not growth, just as all movement is not forward,”
– Ellen Glasgow.
How to Get the Most Out of a Life Change
Going through a major life change—moving to a new state, getting a medical diagnosis, etc—can present shifts and challenges that can either hinder or expand our personal growth. For example, starting a new job might encourage positive growth by allowing us to pursue our professional passion or strike up new friendships. At the same time, it could hinder growth by making us feel lonely and confused in a new environment, leading us to isolate ourselves.
How we respond to major life shifts plays a key role in whether or not we will ultimately grow from them. Luckily, people have been making major changes since we first developed through the epic “change” of evolution, so there’s plenty of research on how to make the most out of your transition.
Take Advantage of Your Clean Slate
The very thing that makes change so intimidating is the same thing that makes it freeing: you’re starting over. Yes, this means you won’t have the same resources to fall back on as before, but that just creates room for completely new relationships and experiences.
You’ll have a “clean slate” an innumerable fronts. First, there are the ways in which you can alter your reputation and/or dynamic with others. Were you known as the person who always came in a little late at your last job? This is your chance to change that image. Did you feel taken advantage of in your last relationship? Now that you’re single, you can focus on your needs—plus, you can take what you learned in your last relationship and use it to ensure your next one is more balanced.
A variety of new, everyday opportunities will also become available. Is your schedule open now that you’ve earned your Master’s degree? All that free time you used to spend on homework can now be spent on a new passion, like salsa dancing or a volunteer position. Are you cleaning out your apartment before a move? Use this opportunity to pull a Marie Kondo and get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy.”
Finally, some transitions allow us to make major changes in multiple areas of our lives. Quitting your job might free you up to relocate to a part of the world you’ve always wanted to move to. Saying goodbye to a roommate might allow you to get that cat you’ve always wanted but that the roommate was allergic to. All the pieces of your new life may not have fallen into place yet, but that just means that none of those “pieces” are blocking the way towards new pursuits and goals.
Keep A Few Small Routines
It’s wise to maintain healthy routines whose familiarity you can fall back on during times of stress. A small, self-loving ritual, like a cup of tea in the afternoon, a long run once a week, or time to journal on a Tuesday evening, can serve as an anchor that keeps you grounded when everything around you seems to be changing.
Maintaining these small pieces of familiarity, be they afternoon meditations or morning cups of coffee, will allow you to maintain a sense of authority over your day. It was also create consistency between your old and new lives; no matter whether your health has changed or you’ve broken up with a significant other, you’re still that person who reads for fifteen minutes before bed or listens to podcasts during her morning run.
It’s Okay To Go Slow
Most of us learn how to swim in the shallow end of a swimming pool, not by being thrown into the ocean. Likewise, it’s totally okay (and sometimes preferable) to take baby steps when our lives are heading in a new direction.
Are you considering obtaining a new degree but nervous about the academic commitment? Start by taking a single course, or even by auditing one just for the experience. You’ll get yourself back into the academic groove and develop an idea of how to best balance assignments with other life chores. Thinking about going vegan? Ease into it by eating vegan one or two days each week, and build up from there. This will give you time to measure how your body reacts to your diet shift.
The moral of the story? There’s nothing wrong with taking things one step at a time.
Know when you need additional support
Many therapists and life coaches specialize in the exact type of change you’re planning to pursue, be it becoming a parent, committing to a romantic relationship, or changing career paths. Their precise career goal is to help you navigate these tricky transitions!
If you’re looking for support in the DMV, you can contact Viva’s clinicians at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (202) 265-1000. You can also check out the free resources provided for people undergoing life changes at The Resilient Brain Project.
Are your ready to take your leap?
Ashley Whimpey hails from the mountains of Utah. A graduate of George Mason University with Honors in Communication and a double minor in psychology and consciousness studies, she loves knowledge. More importantly, her dog’s name is Kona, she drinks an incredible amount of coffee, and she’s a yogini.