The Psychology of Transitions |

5 min read
Pexels/Sora Shima

Pexels/Sora Shima

December extends a well-deserved hiatus to professionals and students alike. As the academic chapter concludes for college students with the culmination of exams, they embark on the task of tying up loose ends before venturing back to the family dynamics that were once integral to their daily lives. The return home can prove to be a jarring experience, particularly for those who have relished in the autonomy of independent living and immersed themselves in the rigors of their studies.

Pexels/Ketue Subiyanto

Pexels/Ketue Subiyanto

For months, many professionals have been driven by the urgency of concluding Q4, finalizing lingering projects, and navigating the delicate process of giving and receiving reviews. The goal is to attain a well-deserved break, motivating them through the hectic period of tasks and assessments.

As routines, roles, and obligations undergo an inevitable transformation, individuals of all ages find themselves at varying crossroads. Some eagerly embrace the change, while others approach it with a mix of anticipation and anxious thoughts. Some navigate this shift blindly, without taking a moment to reflect or prepare for what the break or holiday may unveil.

Amidst the potential positives, it’s essential to recognize that neglecting self-reflection and recovery before transitioning to a new rhythm—even a positive one—can lead to emotional hangovers, illness, or unexplained dips in energy. Taking the time to pause and prepare ensures a smoother journey into the next phase.

The temporary disruption of a familiar routine can evoke feelings of disorientation and trigger shifts in identity, potentially giving rise to negative self-talk and spikes of anxious thoughts. While days filled with constant stimulation may not always be welcomed, they oftentimes become the norm. If this rhythm undergoes an abrupt shift without proper preparation or acknowledgment, individuals may resort to substituting the high need for stimulation with alternative tactics. Unfortunately, these tactics might interfere with the ability to successfully recharge and fully engage with others.

Acknowledge Hard Work

Take the time to assess the year and celebrate what you achieved. Acknowledge the hardships or hurdles that crossed your path and the efforts involved in navigating them. Ask yourself: What words do you associate with the year? How have you grown? What have you learned?

This check-in serves as a powerful tool for fostering self-connection and internal validation, allowing you to metaphorically “clear the clutter” before embarking on your break. Carving out this space for introspection not only aids in achieving a sense of closure but also sparks the ignition of a healthier mindset. By deliberately taking the time to reflect, you pave the way for increased self-awareness, channeling newfound confidence, and reinforcing trust in your abilities as you transition into a well-deserved break.

Set Realistic Expectations

Before embarking on that holiday trip, opening your home to family or friends, or embracing solitude, it’s invaluable to articulate your intentions and emotions. Delve into the efforts required and explore the motivations that underpin your expectations. Take a moment to recognize whether establishing certain boundaries is crucial for cultivating psychological safety and being fully present.

Understanding the moments when it’s beneficial to relinquish control, defusing the impulse to manage every detail, and identifying situations where a more fluid interaction can lead to smoother conversations. This self-awareness empowers you to navigate holiday gatherings with a mindful and grounded approach, steering clear of topics or interactions that might trigger anxiety or leave you feeling disconnected and insecure.

Pexels/Helena Lopes

Pexels/Helena Lopes

Creating a Framework for Relaxation, not Idleness

Establishing dedicated periods for relaxation and rejuvenation is vital for recharging. For some individuals, this can pose a challenge. These intentional breaks may feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable, acting as channels for unresolved thoughts or emotions. If you find yourself avoiding these moments, consider it an indicator that you could benefit from more practice in embracing these pauses, almost as if you are “out of shape” in this area of your life. Think of these breaks as repetitions, gradually building the comfort needed to authentically recover and accept where your thoughts or emotions land.

Excessive relaxation or idleness often leads to unfavorable outcomes and is commonly an avoidance tactic, providing an opportunity for negative self-talk to take center stage. Consider reconnecting with an old friend or revisiting a previous hobby. Challenge yourself with a technology detox and immerse yourself in nature, allowing dormant aspects of yourself to resurface after being overshadowed by the demands of school or work. Recognize that relaxation and productivity are not opposing forces but rather complementary elements. Initially, finding a suitable flow or balance during your transition may be challenging, which is entirely normal and calls for patience and preparation.

Self-Talk Essential Reads

Discovering the perfect flow during the upcoming break is not the main objective; rather, it involves acknowledging the ups and downs of the year and the efforts they warranted. You have no doubt acquired resilience and collected more ‘data’ on yourself and your tendencies. Use this to help shape the decisions, adapt the frameworks, and maintain the boundaries that will best serve you as the new year unfolds. Ideally, a more fluid flow will be created—one that consistently and deliberately interweaves moments of reflection and relaxation, steering you away from an “all or nothing” approach to life.

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