Updated: Nov 29, 2019
With it currently being August, a lot of families are going through the transition of returning to school. This got me thinking about transitional periods in general and how we can cope with them. As a whole, transitional times can bring up a lot of things for people and their families, namely stress. Stress.org has a great comprehensive list of the symptoms of stress. As part of our survival nature, we generally like to have a sense of what's going on. This idea of "the known" is comfortable, even when the known isn't always the best. It's comfortable because we have a sense of what to expect and therefore some idea of how to respond or prepare. However, transitional periods, even when they are for very good and or exciting reasons (like getting married, having a baby, moving to a new home, starting school, etc.) can bring about at ton of stress! Though we might be hopeful things will end up well, we are also not completely sure what challenges will come along with the change, thus the stress mounts.
Nevertheless, change is also part of the lived experience. It will inevitably happen whether we are moving towards it or not. So how can we manage the stress that is coming our way? How do you prepare for something that you are not quite sure will happen or how it will impact you or your family? Here are a few simple things that could make a big difference:
1) Be sure to have some go-to strategies for pulling you out of the worry and into the now. Sensory items can help with this such as a small squishy ball, fuzzy key chain accessory, small stone, or coin. Similar items can be carried by your child as well to use. Practicing deep breathing while focusing on observing and touching the item can help with regulating.
2) Take things one day, heck, one moment at a time. Worrying about tomorrow doesn't do very much good and frankly can be overwhelming. If there are future concerns, you can write them down but put them away afterwards.
3) Bring your attention back to the current day and go into it with the confidence that you will find the solution to it as you have for so many things before. It can help to think of a specific time you overcame a difficulty to anchor your awareness in your ability to take on unexpected challenges. Then notice throughout the day what successes, even small ones, you have.
4) Since mindfulness is all about being in the present, you can direct back to what you are doing in the moment to address that stress. For example, if you call a friend, acknowledge that you are taking the time to talk about it with another person. The same goes for your children, encourage their self expression/communication by modeling it yourself. Tune into your body and mind noticing how relieving or good it feels to just share with another person. Do you have less tension, slower state of mind, etc?
* These are few things that can help with addressing transitional stress. However, in some cases, stressors can reach a point where they are unmanageable, be chronic, or lead to anxious distress. In these situations, more support is needed as the person is likely suffering in their ability to function in one or more than one area of their life. Therapy can be a useful resource in coping with the physical and psychological symptoms associated.