Do you have some sort of life transition you’re going through? New school? New career? New marriage? New divorce? New move? New age?

Of course you do! Such is life!

I am not, and I predict many of you reading are not either, a loving fan of transitions. Unless of course it somehow includes the transition of winning the lottery. (Which is quite impossible considering I don’t buy a ticket.)

But…

What if I did win the lottery?

Perhaps I would fly on a plane and move to a tropical island. So, let’s say I move to Aruba, lie on the beach with a daiquiri practically infused in my veins, and then decide that this coveted life of luxury is actually, well, boring to me. This idealized scenario has left me feeling anxious, unsure, depressed- a whole boat load of negative emotions. A boat that is in danger of being capsized off the northern coast, and I find myself clinging desperately to the anchor at the bottom of the Caribbean Sea.

How did this amazing event turn so impossibly unhappy?

Because all transitions can be just as stressful as negative ones. It’s about adjusting to the change in a positive way.

We assume that because we have a new baby we should be happy, or because we got a promotion we should be happy. Everyone is congratulating you on this major success yet, you’re flailing your arms in loss of sleep and excess work. It doesn’t feel like success.

What could make your transition feel more like a success?

First, as hard as it is, lower your expectations.

Why?

Because they are so high that they’re standing directly in between you and your successful transition.

When I reflect on my upcoming 30th birthday, it is not the age itself that bothers me, what bothers me is not meeting my expectations of who I should be. If I’m so busy comparing current Tara to perfect, non-existent Tara, then I am certainly going to be let down.

Second, you don’t plan for the stress of positive events.

Marriage, by its inherent nature, is a perfect example of one stressful positive occasion. You plan for every detail of the wedding: the temperature of the butter, the colour of the flowers in a center piece, but you forget to plan on what to do when you hit the, “OMG I am so stressed out with this wedding!” The difference between dream and a nightmare hinges on one day.

If, however, you are able to recognize that this big day is going to rattle your nerves, you can decide what to do instead of screaming at the wedding planner. Maybe a brief walk outside, maybe a short venting session to your mom, maybe making a cue card reminding you of all the good things about this amazing day.

Third, you’re stuck in denial or angry that the transition is happening.

Life changes are hard enough on their own and rejecting that it is happening, or not accepting the event, is like canoeing across rapids without a paddle. You may not want a transition to happen, but just because you don’t want it to happen doesn’t mean it won’t anyway!

About the Author

Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: tara_richardson913@hotmail.com Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.