The transition

Nature is full of transitions, one process seamlessly moving into another. All living creatures know this and move in concert with their nature.

Yet human beings have such a hard time with transitions. We develop one way of living, and we do not like change. And yet change is so natural.

I've often wondered, what is it about change we dislike so much? Why fight moving into a new stage in life, leaving one job to start something new, letting adult children move away from the home city, retiring, saying goodbye to a loved one.

Some changes are harder than others, some are more filled with pain, others with more happiness. A common approach to a hard change is to look for the silver lining and focus on the good that can come out of this change that is facing us. Maybe a less common approach is to look at our entire lives as one large entity with a natural rhythm. Instead of isolated incidents, everything that happens in life is part of a larger whole.

When we look at life in this way, as a natural process, we can see the importance of transitions, and how modern society moves away from natural transitions. We live in such a fast paced world, we are not in tune with our own natural rhythm anymore.

Transition is that place of in-between. It is a natural place, like the steady changes between summer and fall, or we can even look at fall itself as the transition between summer and winter. Things pause in transitions, they move slower. For human beings, slowing down also means sitting with our emotions and feelings more, instead of quickly moving on to the next thing. And I think this is the inherent rub of the problem with change. We don't like what we judge to be negative emotions and feelings, so we want to move faster through that portion and just go on to the next thing. Or forget the whole thing ever happened and keep doing what we're doing. And yet, live like that for long enough, and the body and mind eventually force that transition. Because it is a natural process that we have been ignoring for far too long.

So how can you embrace your natural rhythm and allow for transitions in your life?

Remember that transitions are not always as big as moving from fall to winter. They are also small. So when you get ready in the day to leave to work, or start work at your home office, allow for a few minutes of pausing. Sit somewhere comfortably and breathe deeply for a few minutes. Allow your body to slow and calm. And then you start your very busy and sometimes stressful work day.

Transitions also happen when you take a break, say a lunch break, at work. You are moving from an active, well, activity (a phone call, the spread sheet on your computer screen you have been focusing on for the past hour) - and here I mean active in the sense of your brain being active on a specific task - to a "break" where you are engaging in other activities. How often have you continued to work on that spread sheet while munching quickly on your sandwich, and that's supposed to be your "lunch hour"? My point is, we have breaks in our day for a reason, honour your process and take your breaks, and ease into them. Allow for even a 2 minute transition to calm your body and your mind before you take that first bite of your lunch. After all, food is digested better when the body is at peace than on high alert.

Whenever we move from one activity to the next, there is an inherent transition hiding in there. We move so fast through our daily lives, we forget to breathe sometimes. The natural transition time is gone, so we must make time for it. Our natural rhythm needs it. So focus on it, be intentional.

How transitions work on your body

Transitions are a place of pausing and slowing down. Because of the inherent stressors of the day most of us feel, our bodies are constantly under an onslaught of hormones as part of the very natural stress response. Here's the problem. That stress response is meant to be a transitory effect. It is activated when we are faced with a threat and deactivated when that threat goes away. All the little things that cause us stress are threats. I can even say that we are constantly under threat on a daily basis. Worries and anxieties, moments of panic because Zoom just crashed in the middle of your presentation, your child has the sniffles and can't go to school so now you have to come up with a way to work from home and your boss is usually less than understanding, etc etc. The pandemic has given us plenty of things to be anxious over. We are constantly bombarded with threats, large and small. And our bodies are taking the brunt of it.

Being intentional about your transitions and focusing to take that break to breathe and calm does wonders for your alarm system. It brings down those stress hormones running amok and brings order to your system again. And it doesn't take long. A couple of minutes for every small transition in your day.

Being intentional like this and giving to yourself a precious 2 minutes also has another effect. It signals to yourself that you are important enough, that you are worthy of this kind of attention. And that starts to shift your self image on a feeling level. Surely and steadily, this small daily act reaches down into the belief system and starts to create change in a positive way.

How about those longer transitions between stages of life and the uncomfortable sitting with those negative emotions?

I mentioned earlier that transitions are also a time of in-between. In between being laid off from your job and finding another; in between starting the process of divorce and finishing it; in between writing your exam and receiving the results, etc. Those longer times we sit on pins and needles and our minds are racing, anxiety is high, and we just want the wait to be over so we know at least what we're facing.

The in-between is a tough place to be in. And yet, it is a part of the larger process of life. Pausing here is very helpful. Anxiety and fear would make you want to run and hide or run to solve the situation faster. And yet when there are multiple factors involved and you must wait for the next factor to reveal itself, you can't run and you can't solve. So you must pause. Breathe. Calm your body and your racing mind.

We judge certain feeling states as negative and we have an instinct to run away from them. And yet, even if we did that, those feeling states don't go anywhere. Those emotions are still there. We must sit with them. Calm them. Go through the uncomfortable and the distress, not around it or over it. Feelings require to be heard and listened to, and given love and acceptance back. That is our process and our natural rhythm.

Embrace the transition. pause and breathe, and be at one with your natural rhythm.

#lifetransitions #pauseandbreathe #counselling #embraceyourself


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