Life transitions are significant changes that people go through over the course of their lives. How we deal with these transitions can vary depending on the nature of the transition (planned or unplanned, temporary or permanent, etc.) and the personal resources and strengths we have to face such challenges.
Acknowledging and understanding the toll that life transitions can take on our mental health can be a crucial first step in making the adjustments needed to cope well and embrace our new normal.
What are life transitions?
Life transitions are major life events that often require us to change many aspects of our lives all at once. Changes in relationships (e.g. marriage, divorce, break ups, becoming a parent, or “empty nesting”), moving, major illness/injury, or changing employment status (e.g. starting a new job, being fired, or retiring) are life transitions that many of us will likely experience at some point in our lives.
There are transitions that we choose for ourselves (e.g. accepting a job offer and relocating to be closer to work) and transitions that happen to us (e.g. transitioning from a healthy status to a patient status). Although these situations can be common, they can also pose a great challenge, as they require a significant adjustment in not only how we lead our daily lives but also our broader sense of self in relation to the world around us.
As we face these changes, we can sometimes find what worked for us before may not work moving forward. Some of us have an easier time adapting to transitions, but for others, it can be more challenging. We can all benefit from assistance with life transitions whether by leaning on friends, family, and co-workers for support, and when necessary, by enlisting the help of a mental health professional to guide us through these life events.
When is therapy helpful?
Psychotherapy can be helpful throughout the transition process. For life transitions that are more predictable, psychotherapy can be helpful to bolster our skills and plan in anticipation of a big change.
Psychotherapy can also be helpful for people who are currently navigating life transitions or for those who realize weeks or months after a transition has occurred that they may still be struggling with the change. No matter the circumstance, it is never the wrong time or past the time to seek support.