Transitions are not easy for me. This isn’t a new concept for most people – embracing change seems to be something you work for, not are naturally inclined to do. Transitions also happen to be a constant for me. My generation, the millennial generation, has embraced the idea that jobs are not for life, but rather stepping stones to your goal. Transitions tend to come often when that is your ideology. My father worked for the same company for over 30 years, the same one that my grandfather was employed by for almost 60 years. I’ve been in the workforce for over 10 years and the longest I’ve held the same job is a year and a half. Transitions aren’t only jobs, of course. They could be a new relationship, a big move, or anything in between. Going from in-person to remote work was definitely a huge transition for me during this pandemic.

There is a certain anxiety that comes with transitions, no matter how exciting. I remember being unemployed and finally receiving a wonderful job offer. There was a time of excitement and joy – I did it! Then the anxiety hit and I felt myself dig my heels in, resistant to the joy. This was what I wanted, so why was I anxious about the first day? My therapist and I talked at length about it, and we were able to come up with a few ways to manage my anxiety before, during, and after a transition. 

One of the first things we discussed was setting aside time to manage my schedule. Keeping constants in my life was key – it grounded me when I felt like my life was unmanageable. Some days, the most I could schedule was when I was having dinner. But being able to count on something to be consistent was a great way for me to anticipate my anxieties and fight against them. It allows for change, while still giving tangible moments to hold on to. Being able to write out my schedule to run errands, have dinner, and even call my mom were a godsend  for me. I knew exactly what I was doing for those moments in time. Whenever I feel a surge of anxiety about the unknown, I remind myself, “at 7pm I’ll be eating dinner,” and the certainty makes me breathe a little bit easier.

My therapist and I also worked to find ways to calm my mind. I have a lot of issues meditating, but I’ve been able to find my own version of meditation. Sitting still and focusing my mind tends to give me more anxiety. It works for a lot of people – if it works for you, please do it! My form of meditation is guided journaling. When I journal, it is a way for me to externalize my anxiety instead of letting it bottle up in my mind. There are many ways to do guided journaling, but I am a letter writer. I usually write to one of my best friends or my future self. I talk about what I’m thinking and feeling, and it tends to lead me to discovering some of my subconscious reasons for having anxiety. When I was starting my new job, I realized through journaling that I was scared that my new coworkers  may not like me. I didn’t understand that before! I was able to then process why I was having those thoughts.

Another way I manage my anxiety during transitions is through movement. I am not in any way considered fit. I love eating chips while I work and cannot lift anything heavy. However, during this pandemic, my already limited exercise (walking) dramatically decreased. With it, my mood also plummeted. Many of my friends do classes online, whether it be yoga, HIIT classes, or even running classes. Everyone has different things that work for them. I like to put on some music, and dance around a little bit. When I am feeling so anxious that I don’t want to leave my bed, I try to do something basic. The other day, I challenged myself to go to the mailbox. It got me outside and moving, but wasn’t a huge physical exertion. I immediately felt a little less anxious. Exercise isn’t one size fits all, sometimes you need to try different things to see if there is one thing that is best for you. 

Activities are the other tactic I use to help my anxiety. While I endlessly prepare and schedule my days when going into a transition, my mind sometimes needs a physical thing to focus on. I often channel that energy into baking or cooking. My therapist recommended that I find recipes that are challenging so that I am required to focus on every step. My mind doesn’t have the time to wander to “what ifs” when I am reminding myself that the dry ingredients of my cookies are supposed to get mixed into the wet ingredients and not the other way around. I’ve found the prep work for recipes is so soothing, chopping endless vegetables and ingredients on my cutting board, making sure they are all the same size. And when I put the finished product on the plate? Heaven. I’ve included a couple of my favorite recipes below – these are often my “go-tos” when I’m feeling anxious. Even if you don’t get all of the steps right(because I don’t always do), they taste pretty good. 

If cooking and baking isn’t your thing, there are many other activities you can try. I have a friend who uses bullet journaling as a way to manage their anxieties. They use a dot grid journal and online layouts to help design their own journals. They are endlessly customizable, you can track your to-do list, your water consumption, or even your moods. You can buy stickers to place that bring you joy as well. The possibilities are endless and setting it up takes concentration and time. It’s a great way to focus on what is right in front of you, while still feeling productive. I always have a planner, so I am even thinking of starting one! It’s got double benefits – setting it up is a good way to handle anxiety, and then I can use it to keep track of my schedule during my transition. This helps me especially when I am using my planner to structure my days, as I mentioned earlier.

An ancient Greek philosopher once said that the only constant is change. When it comes to change, it can bring up a lot of feelings in our lives. Personally, I feel a lot of anxiety when my life goes through a period of transition. During these periods, there are many different techniques that I employ, such as keeping constants in my schedule, finding a type of meditation, moving my body, and setting up activities to focus my attention. These several things, along with talking to my therapist, help me manage my transitions as well as possible. We can never avoid change, but we can make sure those journeys are set up to be handled easily. If you struggle with anxiety, like me, I encourage you to come to Sanctuary Counseling. Therapy has helped me manage my anxiety and has given me the tools to be able to tackle transitions head on. Without these, I would not be able to handle my life’s transitions nearly as well. I’ve especially held onto this during the past 11 months, when I’ve felt constantly thrown in and out of transition. I’m so very lucky to have had a therapist that has walked with me through this uncertain time, and I invite you to find one as well. 

 

Recipes:

Chrissy Teigen’s Spicy Miso Pasta

Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mike’s Hot Honey Glazed Salmon

 

Activities:

Bullet Journaling 101

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