Life Transitions for Women that Warrant Therapy
Most of us have heard the cliche, “The only thing constant in life is change.” We laugh along, knowing just how true that can be. No matter how long we’ve been alive, we’ve likely faced situations that require us to grow and adapt and change the way we’ve been doing things until now. Although this is an expected part of being human, undergoing a life transition is a completely justifiable reason to seek extra support, including counseling.
Women go through many transitions that may be culturally typical but are often incredibly challenging and stressful. When something is considered “normal,” we often assume that we should be capable of handling it with ease, but that is not always true.
Transitions can be a time when we explore new aspects of our identity, learn from the past, and develop our vision and plan for the future. It can also be a time that can create feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and isolation. Today’s blog focuses on what these transitions might be and ways to care for yourself during change.
There are many aspects of life for a woman that produce change and uncertainty. Here are some common major life transitions women may face that may warrant therapy.
Moving and Careers
Whether living on your own for the first time or relocating to a new city, moving is a significant change. Moving is a fresh start, but it can also feel like completely rebuilding your life without its previous roots. There may be things you miss from the past or fears about fitting into a new place.
Moving can also bring about career changes or opportunities to jump into a new field. In addition, women often face challenges in the workplace, such as unequal pay or a lack of promotion opportunities. A job can be a source of purpose and meaning, so it makes sense that career shifts can create emotional waves.
Beginning Relationships and Related Challenges
Starting a new relationship can be an exciting time, although it makes sense that you may also feel fear about what this step means for your future. As you create a shared life together, you may wonder how you’re going to maintain your independence or wonder what it will look like to live with someone else.
As the relationship progresses, you may find yourself at odds with your partner or in different stages of life. Potentially this could mean doing the work of finding new ways to connect or navigating a separation. Any of these large or micro transitions require us to become honest with ourselves about our wants and needs and where we’re headed in life.
Children and Empty Nest
The entire process of having children can feel like waves of transition. There’s deciding to take this leap, becoming pregnant, managing hormonal and body changes, having a newborn, and each new developmental stage that follows. Every step has its own challenges and joys to process.
After you have been in the role of mom for so many years, having your children grow up and be on their own can be one of the next changes you face. Though some may feel that this is the ‘peaceful’ time, it can be confusing to know how to spend your time or renegotiate your relationship with adult children.
Aging and Illness
Either through age or illness, in life, there will be significant changes to how you experience your body. It may feel like your body is betraying you, or your health necessitates a shift of energy towards maintaining doctor’s appointments, blood tests, and treatments that were not a part of life before.
There can be so many individualized griefs that surface as you age, such as losing mobility, the ability to have children, or your energy levels. Even just the awareness that you aren’t as capable as you used to be is challenging to process.
Ways to Move Through Change
With so many different potential transitions for women, it can feel helpful to have some tools for making this a moment for growth. Here are some tips for building a habit of reflection during a period of change.
Build Emotional Awareness - Tune in to how you are feeling throughout your transition. You will most likely notice a variety of different emotions which are in direct conflict with one another. It is possible to simultaneously feel excitement for the future while feeling grief for what is changing. One feeling is not more right or wrong than the other, and accepting emotions can help enhance self-understanding.
Increase Self-Compassion- Transitions, even positive ones, are difficult experiences. They typically take time as you adjust. Notice your thoughts about yourself. Do they tend to be critical or shaming like, “You should be doing better?” These types of internal narratives make it difficult to grow. Instead, meeting yourself with loving kindness can build resilience throughout the change process.
Develop Realistic Expectations- Often, people envision upcoming transitions in idealistic ways, such as a new mom always feeling ready to care for her new baby or immediately meeting great friends in a new city. When these things don’t happen as you expect, feelings of failure or disappointment are soon to follow. In actuality, this is normal! Check-in with what is in your control and what isn’t, and remember that you are human! It is helpful to set goals but make sure they are attainable.
Life transitions are a source of stress, uncertainty, and confusion. With care, they can be beautiful moments to grow and come into a new state of identity. When life is too overwhelming, these same transitions can be a catalyst for anxiety or depression. No change is too small to ask for help, and therapists are trained to support you in your transitions. Consider what you need at this moment, and remember to be kind!
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