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  • Writer's pictureMegan Korthals

Transitions: Why are they hard and how to navigate them?

It’s Back to School time, and in the mental health field we tend to see an increase in both children and adults who are seeking the support from a counselor during this time.

While some of this can be attributed to the conclusion of summer activities and travel, I find that it is also influenced by the challenges that many of us experience during periods of transition.

When I’m working with individuals or families who are experiencing an increase in anxiety, stress, depression, or even relationship issues, I always assess for any possible transitions that are occurring. Transitions are especially challenging for those with preexisting mental health struggles. Transitions that impact us can be simple as the transition from the weekend into the week, or more complicated such as a transition to a new job or new home.

Back to school is another BIG transition for many of us – children, parents, college students, teachers, and more!

Why are transitions so difficult for so many of us?

Transitions impact our stability and cause uncertainty

Stability and routine help us manage stress. Any change or transition disrupts the established routine and can lead to increased stress and anxiety. When our routine is disrupted, this typically can involve entering into unfamiliar territory, and this uncertainty can trigger apprehension and fear. Many individuals may find it challenging to manage the unknown and worry about potential negative outcomes.

Transitions typically include an adjustment period

They require us to adjust to new environments, relationships, responsibilities, or expectations. This adjustment period can be challenging, overwhelming, and mentally exhausting, particularly for people with mental health conditions who may have an increased sensitivity to stress and change.

Transitions can disrupt our coping skills

They can disrupt our familiar coping mechanisms and increase vulnerability to relapse or worsening of preexisting mental health symptoms. This may result in difficulties managing stress, regulating emotions, and maintaining mental well-being, as well as facing new stressors, triggers, or lack of support systems.

Transitions can make us feel isolated

They often involve leaving behind familiar social networks or support systems. This can lead to feelings of isolation and contribute to difficulties in coping with mental health challenges during these periods.

Here are some tips for navigating times of transition and change during this Back to School season.

Be Realistic: During times of transition and change, it is important to have realistic expectations about what you can accomplish and how long the process might take. Recognize that change can be challenging, and it may take time to adjust to new circumstances. Being realistic means acknowledging that there may be ups and downs, and being prepared for the possibility that things may not go exactly as planned.

Practice Self-compassion: It is crucial to be kind and understanding towards yourself during times of transition. Give yourself permission to feel a range of emotions, whether it is excitement, fear, or uncertainty. Practice self-compassion by acknowledging that these feelings are valid and normal. Understand that adjusting to new circumstances takes time and that it's okay to not feel settled right away. Treat yourself with the same patience and understanding you would offer to a close friend going through a similar situation.

Re-evaluate Routines: Times of transition often require adjustments to our routines and habits. Take the opportunity to re-evaluate your daily or weekly routines to ensure they align with your new circumstances. Analyze which aspects of your routine are still necessary and meaningful, and consider adapting or letting go of those that no longer serve you. By re-evaluating and adjusting your routines, you can create a sense of stability and control in times of change.

Seek Support and Connection: Going through a period of transition can feel overwhelming, and seeking support from loved ones or a community can be immensely helpful. Reach out to friends, family, or mentors who can offer guidance, reassurance, or simply a listening ear. Seeking professional help can also provide valuable support and guidance during times of change. Connecting with others who are going through similar experiences can offer a sense of understanding and validation, reminding you that you are not alone. Building a support network can provide a solid foundation as you navigate through transitions

Though these tips an reminders are helpful, please know that we at ETCG are here to help if you need an extra layer of support. If you or someone you love are finding it difficult to navigate this season, we have counselors ready to help you. Please contact ETCG today:

Phone: 903-502-0490

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