Navigating Life's Transitions: A Guide to Overcoming Anxiety and Stress

Discover Practical Strategies to Find Calm Amidst Chaos and Embrace a Balanced Life

From your RAFT Counseling Team

With the chaos of change that comes with transitions, real life also comes with it. Highway traffic, keeping up with chores, screaming kids, and trying to show up presentable at all of it, transitions can bring a lot of anxiety and stress. Keeping everything straight can cause its own kind of anxiety in daily life. Transitions can include all sorts of changes that life brings including birthdays, holidays, changing seasons, and big events like weddings, funerals and divorces. Daily life comes with its own lot of transitions over the course of the day as we shift between work, home, friends, and smaller transitions within those between meetings and different activities. Phew! No wonder transitions can contribute to us feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and anxious

Here are four ways to deal with transitions that feel overwhelming:

1. 10-Minute Guided Meditation

Meditation can be hard before you make it a daily practice. If you’re new to meditation, start with something small like a 5 to 10-minute guided meditation where a voice coaxes your thoughts into calmer waters instead of you doing it all on your own.

If you want to give it a try without guided audio, try this exercise:

The Floating Leaves

  1. Sit with your legs crossed, your spine tall, and your shoulders back with your heart open. 
  2. Place your hands in your lap facing up.
  3. Take a few deep breaths, inhaling for 8 seconds, holding for 4, then exhaling for another 8 seconds. Try to focus only on your breathing.
  4. Let your breath come naturally. Start noticing the touchpoints around you—how the clothes feel on your skin, how your hair feels against your neck, how the air feels leaving your nostrils. 
  5. Start to picture a creek in your head with falling leaves landing in the water. Any time a thought enters your head, place it on a leaf, and watch it float down the river away from you. Try not to get mad at yourself for having distracting thoughts about the dishes, your busy schedule tomorrow, or that itchy spot on your chin. Instead, place each thought on a leaf and let it float away without judgment. The goal is simply to quiet your thoughts.
  6. Do this for 5 minutes before easing back to the present by wiggling your toes, rolling your shoulders, and slowly opening your eyes.

2. Practice Daily Gratitude

Research has proven that daily gratitude journaling can lead to a person feeling more optimistic, sleeping better, feeling more motivation, and lowering their blood pressure. By pausing daily to express what you’re grateful for, you’re training your brain to focus on the positive things in life instead of the negative ones. 

Even if the holidays are stressful, odds are you don’t need to be reminded of the things that went wrong. Instead, humor yourself with the things that went right. These can be small or significant. Maybe your dad picked a fight again, but you got to see your little brother and talk about his favorite new video games. 

3. Stimulate the Vasovagal Nerve

The vasovagal nerve (or the “wandering” nerve) sends messages from our brain to our organs, digestive system, and plays a key role in the parasympathetic nervous system. It has a huge impact on mood, immune health, digestion, and heart function.

You can stimulate your vasovagal nerve when you’re feeling anxious by focusing on the chest and collar bone. Icing this area is a good way to feel stress relief, as the change in temperature gives anxiety something to grab onto. Other things that cause vibrations through this area, like humming, gargling, or singing, also help stimulate the nerve and reduce anxiety.

4. Fresh Air and Sunshine

Running from one event to another and neglecting to give ourselves ample rest can increase anxiety levels. When we move quickly, our breathing is shallow and we don’t get enough oxygen. This can trigger anxiety and sometimes even panic attacks. 

Make sure you make time in the day to get outside, connect with nature, and breathe. If taking breaks leads to feelings of guilt or negative self-talk, working with a therapist can help you start to see it as a necessary form of self-care. Slowing down every now and then can leave you feeling more fulfilled in the long run. 

Transitions might always be busy but they dont have to bring so much stress and anxiety. If we can help, contact our office today and see if we have a great connection ready to work with you.


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