Christian Reifsteck, Standing Stones Healing Co.
Change is a natural part of life. We are always experiencing major and minor life changes and always transitioning from who we are to who we are becoming. Life changes can be large or small, come in all shapes and sizes, and can range from the death of a loved one to the end of a relationship to a change in your schedule or implementing new health habits. Sometimes these changes can create a variety of feelings, including being overwhelmed, anxious, sad, or even excited and happy. Whatever the life change, below are my top three tips for dealing with it.
1. Recognize that life change is normal.
We all experience life changes, and change is a normal part of life. In fact, the life change or transition that you are currently experiencing is not your first, and it won’t be your last. Life change happens again and again, and we are nearly always in a state of flux from one self to the next. Have you lost a job? Ended a relationship? Experienced the loss of a loved one? These are challenging experiences, but know that they are common to the human experience. Life change transcends time and place, and all of us have experienced life changes numerous times in our lives.
So if you have ended a relationship, for example, you may be thinking, “Phew, I’m so glad that’s over” or “That was terrible and I never want to have to go through that again” or “I’m done and I don’t have to worry about anything like that ever again.” But the truth is that you may very well experience the end of a relationship again in your life. At the very least, I can guarantee that you are going to have additional life changes, so recognizing that life changes and transitions are a normal part of life is the first step to weathering them. Acknowledge that your life change or transition is a part of life that life changes, even similar ones, can and will happen again.
2. Acknowledge that your feelings are normal.
In addition to normalizing the experience of life changes and transitions, it’s important to normalize the feelings associated with them. During a life change, you may feel any number of emotions: you may feel sadness, you may feel anxiety, you may have trouble sleeping, you may have trouble eating, or perhaps you’re even experiencing excitement or anticipation. You can be feeling any or all kinds of feelings, including both positive and negative, to varying amounts at different times. One moment you might be feeling excited, and the next moment you might feel anxious. Even positive life changes that we initiate and are excited about can instigate a range of emotions. Any and all feelings, positive or negative, that you are feeling are normal to feel during a life change or transition.
Please note, though, that if you are experiencing undue levels of depression or anxiety, I encourage you to seek professional mental health counseling. Coaching during life changes is beneficial for many, especially those who want support in initiating life changes and taking positive action, but whose overall mental and emotional wellbeing is not severely impacted. If you are experiencing severe mental and emotional anguish, then I do recommend seeking a licensed mental health counselor to help you work through some of the deeper and more challenging emotions. For instance, I once ended a challenging abusive relationship that left me emotionally spent and recognized right away that I needed professional mental and emotional support to not go back to the relationship. I met with a mental health counselor for a few months to help me work through the experience emotionally and avoid returning to the relationship. A coach, even a good one well versed in life changes like me, was not the best fit for that immediate, dire emotional health need.
Aside from extreme feelings of depression or anxiety, know that your sadness, mild anxiety, trouble sleeping or eating are normal during a life change. Of course we know that sadness over the loss of a relationship is going to be normal. Sadness is of course a normal part of grief, but we don't necessarily recognize that during a life change we may be feeling some anger even when it's a positive life change. You may find yourself thinking, “Gosh I don't know why I’m feeling so angry. What's wrong with me? I've just accepted this new job and I'm very excited about moving to a new location and a new home. Why am I feeling so angry?”
But it's a normal part of the life change process to be feeling a range of emotions during any kind of life change, so recognize and acknowledge that these feelings are normal and know that they are most likely temporary and are going to pass. Recognize the normalcy of these feelings and don’t beat yourself up for those feelings. I once had a client who was upset with herself for still being sad over the end of a recent relationship. I had conducted a Distant Reiki Healing Ceremony to help her move on, and she was upset that she was still missing her ex-partner. When I asked how long it had been, she said three weeks. It is completely normal and expected to still be sad over the end of a relationship three weeks later, so make sure not to beat yourself up if three weeks after a relationship has ended you are still feeling some sadness. I made sure to confirm to her that there is nothing wrong with her and to know that these feelings may continue to linger, and that is normal, too. This leads to my third tip.
3. Be gentle with yourself.
I want to encourage you to be gentle with yourself during life changes and transitions. Even if they are positive life changes, when we are feeling these ranges of emotions, it can be easy for us to be hard on ourselves. We think we should be feeling a certain way, wonder why we’re not feeling one way or another, and think, “What’s wrong with me?” But it's important for you to be kind to yourself at these times, even during the smallest life changes.
We have a tendency to think of life change as being large, like moving to a new country or a loved one passing away or changing careers. But life changes can be small things, and even these small things in our lives can present us with challenges and make us feel as though we are adrift in the sea of life. Because they disrupt our lives, even the smallest life changes can have effects on all of our life experiences, including sleeping, eating, and emotional well-being. When we have a small change in one part of our life, it makes waves in and has ripple effects upon other parts of our lives. While we can have a change in one area of our life, it can effect other areas of our lives, too. Be aware of and acknowledge that ripple effect and be understanding of yourself during your life change and with any experiences and feelings that you might experience.
Like you, I’ve been through numerous life changes, and I’ve had the great honor of encouraging hundreds of people through their life changes. These are the three most basic and important ways I recommend to begin navigating your life change. Many of these tips are contained in my Weathering Life Changes video on the Standing Stones Healing YouTube channel.