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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. Many people feel that new experiences are accompanied by a sense of loss about what’s being left behind. 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.
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.
Bid farewell to familiar people, places, and routines in tangible ways, such as by having a going-away party.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, Troy V., a second-year student at York University in Toronto, Ontario, finds list-making helpful in advance of a change. “Being unprepared for a big change makes things [stressful]. I love writing lists of things to do in preparation for the transition,” he says.
Camilla G., a fourth-year student at Western University in London, Ontario, recommends preparing for changes with a pros-and-cons list. “Most often, you’ll find that your pros outweigh the cons,” she says.
Prepare in advance.
Research different aspects of what’s coming. Knowing what to expect can help diffuse a lot of anxiety. And take baby steps; the process of transition takes time, so ease into it. Check out this resource to help you work through a period of change.
“Research, plan, and prepare for as much of the transition as you can,” suggests Dr. Nicholas Carleton, a psychology professor at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. He explains that part of your preparation can include reflecting on past periods of change. “Remind yourself of the successful transitions you’ve overcome before, particularly the challenging ones, and how you prevailed,” he recommends.
Visualize the positive.
Marilyn Hadad, a psychology professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, says, “It isn’t necessarily the change that’s stressful. It’s your belief about the change that makes it stressful.” She recommends replacing the negative with positive thoughts that focus on how the new experience can benefit you in the future.
Ann C., a second-year student at York University in Toronto, Ontario, points out the benefits of shifting your perspective. She says, “When I look at the big picture, it’s easy to see all of the positives that will come out of change.”
But focusing on positives doesn’t mean stuffing things down. Rather, it’s about allowing yourself to feel and work through negative thoughts if they arise.
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.
“Hobbies are a great way to distract yourself from the stress,” says Kristina V., a third-year student at Ryerson University. “Try sports, arts and crafts, or even baking.”
Reaching out for support can help, too. “Talking to someone really helps, whether it’s a friend or a counsellor. They usually provide great advice,” says Jessica P., a second-year student at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario.
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
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 counsellor. 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:
Canadian Mental Health Association
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
AnxietyBC, General Self-Help Strategies
Dalhousie University, Human Resources, Goal-Setting Overview and Tips
Government of Prince Edward Island, Planning for Transitions: Managing Stress
Health Canada, Coping With Stress
Canadian Mental Health Association, Find Help