Constant Change Can Be Stressful
Transitioning in and out of different cultures and jobs can be exhausting. Maybe your role in the family is constantly changing—or your family is moving again. Possibly you or your spouse are retiring, or returning home from deployment. It can be exciting to explore new challenges, take on new roles and change your routine. But those very things that are exciting can also generate low levels of stress that don’t go away. It’s a confusing combination of exhilaration and tension that can leave you feeling out of sorts and stressed. If this describes your reality, it’s possible you’re experiencing transition stress.
Kate Berardo captures the root causes of this tension in what she calls “The Five R’s of Culture Change.” I feel it’s applicable to just about any type of life transition.
Change Creates Stress Because:
1. Routines become unstable. We love routines! Routines give us a predictable structure in which to operate. Predictability equals comfort. Take that predictability away and you’ve taken the comfort away as well! Without routines, there’s a sense of instability that may lead to feeling untethered and vulnerable.
2. People’s reactions toward us may change in unexpected ways. In large part, we are accustomed to how people will interact with us. However, if our environment (work, home, school, life in general) changes, people may respond to us a differently. This can effect our thoughts, feelings, and ultimately how we view ourselves—it can lead to feelings of uncertainty and lack of confidence. Eventually we turn inward, leading to withdrawal or becoming overly critical.
3. Our role in life is the cornerstone of our identity. As Americans, our role defines our purpose in life and gives that purpose meaning. What we do is who we are. Each of us attaches some meaning to our role and if that role changes, it can have a psychological impact—positive or negative.
4. Relationships are a critical component to our basic needs. Good relationships allow us to be resilient and confident. We rely on those relationships for support and assistance through tough times. Change may strengthen some relationships, while others fall away. And while new friendships may be wonderful, there can be guilt or a sense of loss over the relationships that no longer exist.
5. Change makes us self-reflective. Dramatic changes can cause us to become more introspective. It is possible that we begin to think of ourselves differently as our identity grows and evolves. We may question our values and our ways of thinking. Or we may become less tolerant and more steadfast in our values. In short, we notice the changes we see in ourselves.
Learn To Cope With Stress
Over two thousand years ago, Heraclitus—a Greek philosopher—said, “The only thing constant is change.” Change is the only thing you can be sure of; simply being alive guarantees that you will need to face the challenges that change demands.
It’s easy to get stuck in your head worrying about the future and that long list titled “what if.” This is especially true if your future depends on someone else and you have little control over where and when changes will occur. Living with stress often gives way to anger, irritability, and criticism. This can push people away just when you most need their support. But it needn’t be this way. You can learn to embrace change. Enjoy a deeper understanding of yourself—a result of rising gracefully to the challenges in your life.
An experienced therapist can help you learn to adapt before your stress gets out of control. I can introduce you to some clever real-life solutions that can make the transitions easier and keep the stress at a manageable level.
If It’s Just Stress, Why Would I Need Transition Counseling?
Let’s not minimize the effect stress has on your body and your brain! Every system in your body is affected by stress. When you live with prolonged stress, even at a low level, your muscles are constantly tense, your cardiovascular system is strained, and your hormones are out of whack. Gastrointestinal issues may start to become a problem and even your reproductive system suffers. If that’s not scary enough, chronic stress has been proven to actually alter the structure of your brain and its connections!
Finding ways to increase your ability to emotionally adapt to change is part of overall holistic health. Stress reduction therapy is a smart way to ensure that you are functioning at your best.
I’ve Heard All This Before…
Maybe. Maybe not. For most of us, the act of saying “it”—whatever “it” is for you —out loud is therapeutic. When you keep your emotional stressors to yourself, they tend to run your life. But when you say them out loud, their hold over you diminishes. Let me help you create positive changes in your stress management techniques that can have a positive effect on your well-being. Additionally, there’s comfort in knowing you have a non-judgmental, supportive therapist to whom you can vent each week. You are not alone. I’ve experienced many stressors in my 15 years as a military spouse; constantly moving and reinventing myself. I understand what you’re going through because I’ve been there.
Who knows? Maybe you haven’t heard it all before.
If you’re feeling untethered and are considering transition counseling, please reach out to me. I offer a FREE 15-minute phone consultation.