Coping With Transitions

Post written by guest bloggers Jenn Wiggins, Wellness Advisor at OITE and Andrea Naranjo Erazo, Research Ethics Training Coordinator at OITE.

Transitions can be composed of three stages:  the ending, the neutral zone (or liminal space) and the new beginning, and each stage is associated with its own challenges, emotions, and coping skills required for mastering the transition.  

Transitions can cause us to feel multiple emotions and at times these emotions may conflict. For example, a trainee has accepted an academic appointment that will require them to move across the country. The trainee may feel excited, yet afraid, stressed, or relieved. A hodgepodge of feelings can add to the challenge of mastering a transition.  As an individual develops realistic expectations for themselves it is helpful to develop a growth mindset. The growth mindset refers to leaning into your talent and holding the belief that this talent can be even further developed. This mindset helps to foster the ability to cope with discomfort, uncertainty and anxiety can ease the stress of the transition process. By developing and utilizing helpful coping tools, we increase our capacity for managing stressors associated with a transition.

The ending and the beginning stages require closure and growth, and these can be associated with grief and discomfort. Living in the liminal space, the space in between the ending and the new beginning, can be uncomfortable, anxiety provoking, full of uncertainty and confusion, and may lead us to want to skip over it. However, the liminal space could also be a time of exploration and growth; preparation for a new beginning.

In the liminal space, vulnerability and self-assessment can be critical for growth in this space. Vulnerability involves self-reflection, being able to open up and ask for help when needed, and willingness to shift our perceptions.

If we are stuck in the liminal space, what strategies will help us grow during this period? What do we do when our new beginning keeps moving or changing? When our goals get moved/changed and we are stuck in the liminal space for longer than anticipated?

Below are four tips for coping with external and internal stressors associated with transitions.

May these tips help you navigate transitions and encourage you to embrace this space, as life is a journey of transformations, a chance for growth and renewal.

  1. Be proactive. We often let our anxiety take over when facing uncertainty or discomfort. To help manage what is in our control it is important to be proactive. This can look like getting organized physically and cognitively, seeking out information and resources to help make best informed decisions or engaging in self-care to help moderate stress levels.
  2. Acknowledge and validate your feelings. Transitions are a natural part of life and can elicit a number of feelings. By acknowledging the realness of our feelings, we are primed to respond to external stressors with deeper understanding and care.
  3. Keep in mind that transitions do not last forever. When experiencing a chronic stressor, in the moment it can feel like the discomfort will never end or that it is too much to manage. Rather, acknowledge that transitions have a start and an end, set short term goals that allow you to successfully reach the end of the transition.
  4. Remember to be kind to yourself and that you are not alone. Engaging with compassion and utilizing resources is a great way to problem solve the challenges you may face stepping into the growth mindset.

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