If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s change—whether it’s a minor adjustment to my exercise routine, a renovation at the grocery store, or (more drastically) a move across the state. In any such case, I feel uncomfortable, anxious, and completely insecure. Needless to say, this weakness of mine made for an interesting transition from college to adult life. For four years, I was in the same place, with the same people, doing essentially the same thing. My days consisted mostly of going to class, doing homework, and spending time with my friends: simple, easy, familiar. That is, until I graduated and my whole life came into question.
I did my best to prepare for graduation and, more importantly, for the close of this life chapter—but it didn’t really hit me until a few weeks after walking across that stage and receiving my diploma. I didn’t cry my eyes out during commencement and I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion as I packed up my apartment. But I completely lost it in the laundry room at my dad’s a month later.
Call it denial, call it emotional instability—but clearly it took me a while to realize the magnitude of my current situation. I was in the middle of a major life transition. And my track record for dealing with change wasn’t all that great… I needed to do some major soul-searching—or better yet, some major planning. I’ve always thrived off of following a premeditated, clean routine. And it became clear that this would be the key to my successes post-college, just like it was during college.
Give Yourself Time to Adjust
My dad found me crying in front of the dryer, surprised only that it hadn’t happened sooner. He’d asked me every few days if I was “holding up alright,” and “doing okay,” but I always brushed his concerns off my shoulder. Why wouldn’t I be okay? He, of course, knew how bad I was with change. Finally, I validated those concerns and welcomed his advice. It’s okay to not be okay, he told me. I’m not the only person who finds change difficult—transitioning from one chapter to the next is stressful for just about everybody.
And that’s exactly why we must allow ourselves time to make that transition, to familiarize ourselves with the new situation. Melissa McGinness, a licensed therapist and lead clinician at Thriveworks Lynchburg Counseling, says that we should give ourselves at least 90 days to adjust appropriately:
“Transition and change are very stressful and uncomfortable things. If you are tempted to leave your new job or new town, remember that it takes about 90 days to get familiar with a new situation. The first 30 days you feel lost, incompetent, and dependent on others for assistance. The next 30 days is where you are getting familiar and more confident about your surroundings and with any new procedures that you have. Then, finally, at the end of the last 30 days, you feel settled, more confident, and more adjusted to your new change. Just remember to continue to be kind and to give yourself the time needed to adjust.”
Make Your Transition a Smooth One: 4 Simple Tips
While you’re giving yourself that necessary time to adjust, you can make the transition even smoother by following the advice of Licensed Psychotherapist Melissa Thompson, who has a private practice in New York City. These four tips proved to help me and I guarantee they’ll help you too:
1) Prepare. “The more we can do before the transition, the more we can prepare and predict different scenarios that may occur or feelings that might emerge. Whether it’s buying a house, having a baby, or starting a new job, working through the details as much as you can and exploring the emotional impact can be tremendous in helping make a smooth transition.”
2) Get support. “We aren’t meant to deal with big life changes alone. Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist. Find someone that you can trust to share some of these more emotional pieces of whatever you are going through.”
3) Be proactive. “What’s on the other side? If it’s a move or a baby, or even a job, prepare some pieces on the other side of the transition—whether it’s a new parents group, a lunch with a new coworker, or a meet-up with new neighbors. This will help your transition feel smoother and supported.”
4) Stay self-aware. “Know yourself—check in with you and what you need. Maybe in the midst of the chaos of the transition you need a run, a getaway, or something else. Learning about what we may need moment to moment can help a lot in times of change.”