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How to Manage a Life Transition

While growing up, my mother created poignant teachable moments using proverbs. One of my favorite sayings referred to an outlook on life. She often said, “the only constant in life is change”. This sage advice did not truly have meaning in my life until I reached adulthood. I am amazed at how quickly days and months pass by. And yet the only constant within the passing days is the anticipation of major and minor life changes.

Life transitions can be exciting and challenging times often accompanied with a myriad of feelings. From high stress, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem to joy, relief, and contentment. During these periods of change, it is good to have resources to rely upon to get through the season you are in. 

What is a life transition?

In psychology, the changes that encompass a life transition are detailed in the Schlossberg Transition Theory. According to this theory, a transition is defined as events or nonevents that result in changed relationships, routines, assumptions, and roles. There are two types of transitions: Anticipated and Unanticipated. An anticipated transition is composed of expected and predictable events like graduations and jobs. Unanticipated transitions are events that are not predictable, like getting a divorce or the sudden loss of a loved one.

Life transitions are composed of events and non-events. An event is expected (e.g., go to college) while a non-event is something that is expected but it does not occur. Some examples of this are not getting into the college of choice or not obtaining a much-anticipated job. 

Prominent Life Transitions

I do not believe any life stage is more prominent that the other. It is important to honor every stage in life. Age ranges from 20s to 60s and beyond are perpetual states of figuring out who you are, what you want to do, how to achieve wants, and selecting the right people to accompany you on this journey!

The following is a list of typical life transitions that one faces in specific age ranges:20sGraduation from college, Career choice, Enter job market, Independence, Relocation, Marriage or Partnership30-40sJob loss, Family leave, Career shift, Relocation, Marriage or Partnership, Fertility struggles, Childbirth, Illness, Divorce, Parenthood (or not), Empty nest syndrome50-60sRetirement, Aging parents, Illness, Divorce, Empty nest syndrome, Adult children

Coping Strategies

Given the various emotions and stressors that accompany a life transition, it is important to find effective ways to cope with the changes. The following is a list of steps to help aid the coping process.

  1. Take notice and write down feelings of discomfort during a transition. Embrace it, don’t push it away!

  2. Notice your symptoms. Are you feeling more irritable, sad, anxious? Notice any and all triggers; take a personal inventory.

  3. Seek out successful role models. Do you know someone who has experienced the same life transition and successfully navigated it? Get tips or insights from that person. Evaluate whether any of their coping strategies can work for you.

  4. Seek help, whether it be from a mental health professional or life coach. Get a neutral party to help you talk things through what you are experiencing.

  5. Constantly assess how you feel. Consistently ask yourself questions. For example: How do I feel today? How do I feel internally? Emotionally? Spiritually? Physically?

  6. Don’t be afraid of change.  It is the one constant in life! 

For questions or if you are seeking support during a life transition, please contact the Amy Wine Counseling Center at (832) 421-8714.


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