Coping and Managing Stress During Periods of Transition

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It was Socrates who said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new”. As we advise our clients who are making their way through various life transitions, it is important to begin by acknowledging the mental and emotional toll of the transition period. We encourage clients to take time to honor their feelings without the added burden of also trying to decide what comes next. Time and emotional support help to provide perspective, creating the presence of mind to help choices become clearer and less narrow.

Life transitions can be overwhelming. Whether your transition is due to the sale of a business, the loss of a spouse or close loved one, an inheritance, or a combination of transitions all at once–it can be difficult to know how to cope and how to move forward. The variety of emotions during a transition can often be bittersweet, just as enjoying the autumn but dreading the winter can make us want to stay put in the cozy fall sun with orange leaves and harvest festivals. But moving through a major life transition is a balancing act of owning the moment from an emotional standpoint while planning for the future and eventually finding a way to embrace your next steps.


It can sometimes be difficult to accept the change that comes with any major transition in our lives. It is human nature to fight things that make us feel uncomfortable or are unfamiliar. Whether you are experiencing the loss of a loved one, a major career change, a big move across the country, divorce or something else, working through a process to accept the new world that is now your own is an important step in making space for setting new goals and making new life decisions. Acceptance is a great first step in creating a positive future for yourself.


Looking within yourself and taking stock of who you really are and what you really want can have a lasting impact on the way you manage your transition. Self-reflection can help you identify your main sources of challenge and worry, and to see other sides of the situation. Practicing meditation or yoga, talking with a therapist, journaling, or simply taking walks can help facilitate reflection and mindfulness. Periods of major change are when it is most important to assess your thoughts, feelings, and questions.

Live in the Moment

During periods of transition we can often look to the past or too far into the future for answers, for comfort, or simply to avoid what is happening at present. This moment, the one we are in at present is really the one that matters the most. It is what will move us towards our future and is what has brought us from where we started. Setting small, attainable goals for the future and trying not to get too wrapped up in what’s going to happen a year or two from now will help make challenges seem more manageable.

Consult a Mentor

Whether it is a friend, colleague, coach, parent, sibling or advisor, having a confidante to share your thoughts, concerns, ideas, and options with can be of great benefit when you are in the throes of a major life change. Talking things through and getting feedback on your thought process can be a great source for clarity as well as an outlet for your thoughts.

Optimism is a Skill

When things are in turmoil it can often come more easily to have a negative outlook than a positive one. In cases like these, you might consider that you need to do some optimism exercises. Optimism is really a skill that can be honed like a great golf swing or an expert soufflé. If you can overcome negative thought patterns and cultivate a positive outlook it will shift your mindset and perhaps learn to see opportunities for growth where previously you saw only roadblocks. Every transition, though tiresome, has something beneficial to bring to your life.

Life sometimes throws us curveballs and even ones we knew were coming for a long time can feel like a ton of bricks when they finally meet us at the front door. These times can be stressful, even if they bring us joy, and those stressors can add up to leave you feeling exhausted. Transitions and the associated fatigue that tend to come with them can have major effects on your behavior, your emotions, your health, brain function, relationship and (if you haven’t yet retired) your job performance. Everyone is unique and each one of us manages stress in different ways. Taking the steps listed above should help to maintain your well-being through your life transition, improve your quality of life, and hopefully, help you make confident decisions.

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