Now what?! 5 tips to thrive in transition

by Leigh Volker

Some people love change, unfortunately I am not one of them.  Up until recently, even thinking about the major change has made me cringe.  And yet, transitions are inevitable, and in my experience, frequent.  Graduating from school, moving, unemployment, saying good-bye to a good friend, making a career change, getting married, becoming single again, losing an important person to death...  Transitions can come with a wide variety of mixed emotions. Exciting transitions can have unexpected difficulties and difficult transitions can be unexpected joys.   

Over the past few years, I think I have gone through almost all of these changes, and I have thought to myself, 'if this is going to keep happening, I should learn to get better at it.  Maybe I can learn to embrace change instead of seeing it as an interruption in the life I’ve planned.'  As C.S. Lewis wrote, “the great thing is, if one can, to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions in one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.”                                  

Recently I have found myself at a crossroads. Finishing a season of coordinating the River and beginning my time on staff as a therapist at SRP are both joyful and exciting.  I am excited and celebrating this movement, but there is a little part of my heart that whispers, “wait a minute, I’m not sure where exactly I'm heading. I feel sad for what I’m leaving behind, God, are you jerking me around?  I need some time to catch up!”   Though it is tempting to bypass this little voice and judge it as silly, I've come to understand that when I ignore the stresses and strains of even good transitions, I am less likely to transition wholeheartedly and holistically.  Rather we can embrace whatever is. 

So, how do we listen to our selves (body, mind, spirit) and navigate the seasons, capturing the joy and managing the stress? Whether you are ending a season and know exactly where you’re headed, or haven’t got a clue where to go, here are five holistic tips to navigate transitions:

Be prepared (body)- I once heard the advice that after a milestone in your life, it is important to plan the trip “downhill.” There is a physiologic reality that our bodies “rev-up” and produce hormones (adrenaline) to increase our performance and respond to stressful circumstances.  What goes up has to come down and we will inevitably experience a post-adrenaline letdown.  I have learned about myself that I tend to get stuck in the feelings and misinterpret the natural physiological process as something wrong.  If I am able to anticipate and prepare for the downhill trip, give myself some time, space and rest to experience it, I can help to avoid a more serious or prolonged depression. Taking good care of your body, including a proper diet and regular exercise will help keep you healthy during this process. 

 

Look back (mind/ heart)- Throughout the Old Testament, God instructed the people to stop and remember.  In Joshua 4, God told the Israelites to create a memorial out of stones so that future generations would ask and they would be able to tell them what the LORD did for them.  We too need to practice the art of remembering and recognize where God has brought us.  Reflect on the season that you’re leaving.  Contemplate what you’ve learned, celebrate the accomplishments and grieve the difficulties and losses.  Consider how you’ve grown and changed and how you are not the same person as when you started. See how that experience has equipped you for the future.  Adequate time in reflection is crucial before moving on. 


 

Look up (spirit) Prayer, dialogue with God, is so critical.  Because, simply put, He knows where you’ve been, He knows where you’re headed.  I so often need to be reminded of God’s assurance:  I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. When you come looking for me, you'll find me. "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." Jeremiah 29:11-12 (the Message).  Praying through scripture or posting it around your home may be a helpful reminder of God’s assurance through transition.  You may even want to pray through a verse at set times, like when you eat your meals.  It's a simple way to continually meditate on truth.

 

Look around (relationship)- Community is important during times of transition to provide support and keep us grounded. We aren’t meant to go through this life alone.  The challenge for many of us is that we don't want to admit we need others and we usually don't want to ask for help.  Because, after all, what if we burden others or they don't come through?  We have the opportunity to risk these possibilities so that we can be connected to others, God and our future life... a fellowship group, family, or friends is a critical life-line when it seems like everything is out of control.  Seeking counsel from a friend, mentor or counselor can be helpful to provide ideas and perspective.

Sometimes it's hard to see the bigger picture when I'm right in the middle of an emotional situation.   Several years ago I experienced  the death of a good friend.  Following her death I struggled with a a significant period of grief and depression.  My own resources to process this were inadequate.  I sought out professional counseling to help me through the deep grief.  Realizing my own limitations and surrendering my desire to be self-sufficient, I have learned to seek out support in seasons of transition.

  The guidance of a counselor has also helped me gain a bigger perspective or provide me with ideas and possibilities that had never before occurred to me. 

 

Look forward (vision)- When the future is unclear and we don’t know where to go, many of us go into survival mode.  But we don't have to.  In survival mode we are hiding in fear.  To combat the power of fear, intentionally take time to dream. Cast vision for the future. Consider new possibilities.  In his book In the Twinkle of an “I”, There is Something New Under the Son, Dan Tocchini challenges his readers with these questions: “what if you started living from an unprecedented future now and for the rest of your lives no matter what the circumstances? What if wherever you are is the perfect place to be at that time and from there you can go anywhere?”  Take some time to consider these questions and journal out your responses.  Maybe make a list of your dreams, things that may seem a little out of your grasp but make your heart feel alive. Ask the Lord how these can become a part of your life.

At the beginning, I mentioned that my response to change has recently shifted. To my own surprise, I have begun to be excited about new possibilities in my life. I cannot attribute that to myself, but to God.  My community has challenged me to live out of a place of possibility instead of fear. Through wrestling with God about my past pains and fear of change, I have begun come to more fully embrace His assurance of provision for my life and look for Him to be true to His word.  Will you join me in looking into this new season through a lens of health and possibility? Let’s explore together what new opportunities are to be found. 

We invite your comments and reflections on how have you walked through transitions in your life...

 


 

 


1 Comment
  1. I am in a difficult transition now, and the Lord has told me to trust Him. Thank you for sharing this perspective it has helped me.

    In Him,

    Ito Osaigbovo

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