Transitions, even when positive, tax our minds and bodies. No amount of resilience or grit can prevent the tax, the best way through is self-compassion.
This life lesson came into sharp focus over the last five months as I:
- moved from DC to Minneapolis
- finished a program at Georgetown
- started a new role as a remote worker
- supported my husband as he formed a new company
These are all good things that I wanted to do. They are my choices, no external forces at play here. And yet, going through all these changes took a toll on me.
I noticed some subtle and not-so-subtle changes during ‘peak transition’:
- I was Tired (with a capital T). The analyst in me tried to diagnose what was going on by evaluating my diet and exercise. I realized that even though my nutrition and activity level were the same, I needed sleep more than ever.
2. I was frustrated. My normally go-with-the-flow self was suddenly irritated about things beyond my control and expending energy on being discouraged (a.k.a on the floor in a snuggie!).
3. I tried (in vain) to seize control. The things in my mind were overwhelming, and I started making lists about everything. I dispositioned all our possessions in a spreadsheet months ahead of the move because it helped me feel like I was in charge.
At the same time, I was also trying to make a call about what to do next at work. I couldn’t find the clear-headed place that I typically make choices from. It just wasn’t there (cue the frustration!). The transitions were taxing my mind and I was unable to engage in the reflection needed to see what was next.
I don’t have some magical insight that will carry me through all future transitions unscathed. What I do have are some things that helped, this time.
Self-compassion goes a long way.
I accepted that I needed to sleep, and did it without feeling guilty. I gave myself permission to recover and make deliberate choices about what activities I engaged in. It was fine not to do a farewell happy hour because I chose not to plan one.
Declaring ‘the next four weeks are kind of going to suck’ helps.
In the final stage of moving, I acknowledged that there were some tough times ahead and that helped with the unforeseen complications that inevitably came up. Like the hitch not being installed on the car, or the power going out for a full day in the new building.
Limitations are real, and okay.
The reality was that I couldn’t close a bunch of chapters AND make a good decision about what was next at the same time. I had to wait until things settled a bit, and then my mental clarity returned and I was able to see the path.
When you see a life transition (or several) on the horizon, start to tune in and pay attention to your mind and body. You might need to give yourself a break (or several) as you make your way through and on to the next great thing.