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Books. You’ve been immersed in them for a long time. But now it might be time to turn the page to a different chapter. Whether you’re getting ready to graduate, taking a job or internship, moving back in with your parents, or even just ending another semester, change can be challenging.
With these tricky transitions, the big question on your mind may be, “What’s happening next?” Here are some tips to help you move forward with confidence.
Nervousness Is Normal
Feeling apprehensive about transitions is perfectly all right, and far from a sign of weakness. “For something new to happen in life, there is something lost,” explains Dr. Cheryl MacDonald on the blog of the Health Psychology Center in Oceanside, California. In fact, you may need to grieve the past while getting excited about what’s coming. Accepting life’s transitions as both a loss and gain can help you move forward smoothly.
Plus, stress isn’t always bad. For example, if you heard there was a bear on campus, you’d want to be alert. But if you got so anxious that you started running haphazardly, you might wind up doing something that’s not helpful.
Harnessing the feelings you have about upcoming changes can help you avoid rushing into things prematurely or resisting them altogether because anxiety has stopped you in your tracks.
Change Could Be Cool
Reframing stress about change can help you look forward with anticipation instead of trepidation. In his book Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, Dr. William Bridges says transitions involve three phases:
- Letting go, in which you separate from the past
- A neutral zone, wherein you’ve detached from the old life but not yet secured connections in the new
- The new beginning, when you embrace the new life and are excited about its possibilities
New circumstances may feel uncomfortable, but great things may come of them. Corbyn L., a junior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, shares, “Understand that changes are needed in order to get where you want to go.”
Planning Can Make for Peace
So, what can you do when you’re facing a transition? Here are some suggestions:
Take care of unfinished business.
Saying “goodbye” to the old is crucial in helping you to say “hello” to the new. Ask yourself precisely what you want to communicate to, or about, each person, place, and situation that has had significance for you—and then do it.
The Colorado State University Extension in Fort Collins suggests bidding farewell to familiar people, places, and routines in tangible ways, such as by having a going-away party.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, Taryn S., a senior at Minot State University in North Dakota, finds list-making helpful in advance of a change. “Instead of stressing about things, I have a concrete list and can check items off to see how much I have accomplished,” she says.
Jenn L., a junior at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, recommends preparing for changes with a pros-and-cons list. “Really focus on the pros,” she suggests.
Prepare in advance.
Research different aspects of what’s coming. Knowing what to expect can help knock down a lot of anxiety. And walk in baby steps; the process of transition takes time, so ease into it. Check out a preparation worksheet.
Visualize the positive.
Dr. Florin Dolcos, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his graduate student Nicole M. Llewellyn explain that in their research they’ve found that people who reframe situations to view them more positively experience reduced anxiety levels. Ask yourself, “What great things may take place through this?”
Anna L., a recent graduate of Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa, says, “It helps me to picture or plan small details. Before I moved to my apartment, I pictured cooking in my own kitchen. It helped ease some of the stress.”
But focusing on positives doesn’t mean stuffing things down. Dolcos and Llewellyn found that people who suppressed negative feelings had more anxiety than those who expressed things honestly.
In the Interim
Part of the challenge of change is time itself. Waiting can be hard. But there are things you can do to cope while you mentally process moving—physically or metaphorically—from point A to point B.
“Find an activity to take your mind off the stress,” says Colin C., a junior at Binghamton University, The State University of New York. “I enjoy playing guitar and singing.”
Reaching out for support can help, too. “Sometimes just talking your frustrations or worries out can make them seem less daunting,” says Kayla F., a sophomore at Fairmont State University in West Virginia.
With every end there’s a new beginning. Embracing the next chapter in your life can be empowering—and a real page-turner.
- Understand that feeling apprehensive about transitions is normal.
- Focus on planning each step in the process and anticipating the positives.
- Acknowledge what you’ll be ending or losing. Say “goodbye” in concrete ways.
- Enjoy hobbies and talk with others to relieve anxiety.
More tips on coping
Feeling Overwhelmed?Times of transition can be challenging. If you’re feeling stuck, anxious, or just need to talk things out, there are many options.
You can talk with a friend, family member, mentor, advisor, spiritual leader, or counselor. Your school helps students through times of change every day. Plus, everyone has experienced transitions in life, so many people will understand and have suggestions.
For more resources and confidential help:
Get help or find out more
Surdna Foundation’s Transitions: Sustaining Social Change Web site, Tools for Endings
Surdna Foundation’s Transitions: Sustaining Social Change Web site, Tools for the Neutral Zone Surdna Foundation’s Transitions: Sustaining Social Change Web site, Tools for New Beginnings