Coping with life transitions

We learn eight tips to help make life transitions more bearable and positive experiences.

There is no escaping change or life transitions and its potential to impact your life. Change can often be stressful and may require adjustment time. Various types of change can seem overwhelming but may also present valuable opportunities for personal growth.

Whether you have been actively seeking change or it has been imposed upon you, there are unique challenges that come with different forms of change.

Typical life changes may include pivotal transitions in work or studies, relationships, or family dynamics, moving home or relocating, loss of a loved one or significant health diagnoses. Change and the uncertainty it brings are part of life and resisting change will not make it any easier.

Change is normal and adjusting to it comes naturally to most people, however, major transitions may mean letting go of the life you are accustomed to and embracing a new one. If a transition is intensely challenging, it can destabilise your thoughts and emotions, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and distressed.

Knowing how to cope with the curveballs life throws at you, is therefore a crucial life skill. Embracing change in a positive way helps you to become stronger and more resilient. Managing change in life is key to personal growth and enables you to live a life where you are thriving, rather than just surviving.

8 tips to cope with life transitions

  1. Understand and accept the limits of what you can control and what is beyond your control. Focus your energy and efforts constructively rather than becoming stuck in anger and denial.
  2. Practise good self-care. Get plenty of sleep, eat a balanced diet, and feel the benefits of physical exercise.
  3. Embrace healthy coping skills. Fun activities such as listening to music, spending time in nature, reading a good book or playing with a pet are good for your well-being and can reduce your stress levels.
  4. Cut out unhealthy coping skills. If you have been turning to activities or habits that do more harm than good, make a conscious effort to cut back.
  5. Seek meaningful connections and support. Spend time with family and friends who are good for you.
  6. Let go of your regrets. Regrets can hold you back in life. Looking back at the past may cause you to miss the opportunities change presents for the future.
  7. Practise self-compassion. Treat yourself with the same kindness and compassion as you would a loved one going through a challenging time in their life.
  8. The gift of gratitude. With reflection you may discover a greater appreciation for what you do have and what remains constant in your life during a period of change.

A life worth living

To create a life that you do not feel you need to escape from, a life worth living, you need to be proactive about how you manage the changes you face in your life. However, sometimes, adjusting can be so daunting and overwhelming that it leads to an adjustment disorder.

This may happen when the stress associated with change exceeds your resources for coping, and your reaction becomes disproportionate to the event. Consider seeking professional mental health support if you are struggling to cope with change.

While the personal experience of adjustment to any change is unique, and may be expected to be uncomfortable initially, it may be cause for concern if you still feel overwhelmed three months later, or your suffering is disproportionate in response to the situation.

If you are not coping in your day-to-day life, social relationships, at home, work, or school, talking to a mental health professional can be helpful in providing emotional support and learning to identify healthy coping mechanisms and stress management strategies.

Seek proper treatment from a therapist or psychiatrist who can help you to manage the condition and learn the skills you need to cope with change and future life transitions.

If you are having a difficult time coming to terms with change or experiencing emotional distress, Netcare Akeso’s 24-hour crisis line is always here for you on 0861 435 787. Trained counsellors are available to listen and can guide you on the various options for assistance, whether for yourself or a loved one.

Belinda Campher is an occupational therapist and the general manager of Netcare Akeso George.


Belinda Campher is an occupational therapist and the general manager of Netcare Akeso George.