Transitions are HARD

I am currently riding the rollercoaster emotions of with my youngest child going to college out of state. Can anybody relate? September is a busy month for most with the official shift from Summer to Fall. Whether it’s having a new baby, starting up the school year, changing schools, moving, or the dreaded Monday blues, transitions can be hard. Positive or negative, change is tough and can lead to thoughts of losing something valuable or fears of not adapting to the new ways. The reason transitions are hard are because changes disrupt our feelings of safety and stability. Even when one sought after change will contribute to a life we want, the adjustment to the “new” can feel unsettling. Transitions can impact your mental health whether you consciously realize it or not.

Here are some DBT skills that can be helpful:

  • Cope Ahead: When I knew the date my daughter was moving out was quickly approaching, I limited my commitments outside the home and away from her. I planned on pleasant activities that we could do together. Planning for the transition will make it more tolerable and reduce anxiety around the time period. DBT “cope-ahead” skill is part of the ABC PLEASE emotional regulation strategy. Mastering this skill is tough, however, because it asks you to get honest with yourself about triggers, instead of being surprised when they happen.
  • Wise Mind: Wise mind is the sweet spot where you incorporate the facts and your emotions to decide effectively. It’s the bridge between reasonable mind and emotion mind. Everyone has one and not everyone’s “wise mind” is the same. My wise mind means that I need to go more towards the rational side when I can, since I am typically an emotionally sensitive person. When fears popped up, that my daughter would have a hard time, drift away from us, or fall in with the wrong crowd, I used “checking the facts” after validating my emotions to get in the right mind space.
  • ABC Please: I already talked about the “C” in ABC PLEASE. The rest of this skill stands for A: accumulating positives in the long and short term; B: building mastery; and PLEASE: all the body stuff that contributes to emotion vulnerability if you don’t take care of it. In DBT, we build a LIFE WORTH LIVING- which essentially means that you are living a life YOU want to live based on the values YOU find important. For me, I must pay attention to having fun, being healthy, and being part of a group. Also, I need a little more sleep than the average person, so I try getting the same if not more sleep during big transitions in my life. Hopefully, whatever transition you are experiencing is an “action step” along that life path you are trying to carve out. Focus on the end goal or better stated- “eye on the prize”.  Building mastery is all about giving you small tasks to build up to proficiency. For example, those years in high school aid in getting a career that you eventually want. Drinking more water helps with a goal to improve your general health.  Going to work helps with earning money to travel, etc. PLEASE stands for physical illness, eating, avoiding substances, sleeping, and exercising. All the basics in life that contribute to emotional vulnerability if they are out of whack. Here are some examples.

  • Self Soothe: Are the changes you are going through making you feel anxious, maybe even panicky? You are not alone. In fact, big transitions can bring people to that high state of dysregulation. If you know about rating, “distress” can be defined as a rate of 7-10 out of 10. When you feel this way, the best thing is to calm the body so you can rationally think things through and “power on”. I tell my clients, to create a “self-soothing” kit that can be carried around in a small bag. Have an object to appeal to each of your senses. Let’s call this a “crisis kit” or “self-soothing kit”. My kit includes a shell, a pic of my family, lavender lotion, some mints, and words to my fav song. Here is an example of one:

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