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« Feeling anxious: Transition troubles, by Rachel Green »

Written by Rachel Green. The De-stressor Professor: Helping people find positive outcomes from uneasy emotions and difficult decisions. Director of The Emotional Intelligence Institute. 

Feeling anxious: Transition Troubles

Feeling anxious during change is quite common. In fact, feeling anxious can be quite normal if you are moving from the old to the new and are presently half-way between. The sweating, the stomach churning, the pounding heart, the negative thoughts may all occur.

Before we look at how to cope with these anxiety symptoms and feeling anxious, let me first explain why you may feel anxious in the first place.

Feeling anxious: Three stages of change.

According to William Bridges, there are three stages of change.

The first stage is called "Endings". There are many things that may be ending in your life, all of which may result in your feeling anxious.

For example, job security, old technology, familiar work environments, relationships, youthfulness, health, homes, being single, may all be ending for you at one time or another.

Another stage is called "Beginnings". This is associated with the new aspects of your life which are springing up. You might just have begun married life, a new job, become a new mother, got a new house, found a new boyfriend, bought a new iPhone, or got a new boss, a new career, new qualifications, or more. These too can result in your feeling anxious.

However, of even greater importance in causing anxiety is the stage between these two, called "Transitions". This is when you are part way between the end and the beginning. There is still a pull back to the old and familiar but also a pull towards the new.

Why is the Transition stage so often associated with feeling anxious? Because the new is not yet established or even in sight, and yet the old has gone.

It is a time of confusion and uncertainty, when you feel as though you are lost at sea, land is not in sight and you have no compass. No wonder that feeling anxious is all part of it.

Even good times can lead to transition anxiety

I remember once leaving a job that I did not like and that caused me a lot of stress. I had taken the decision to leave. I had been looking forward to the day that I would leave for months and with great excitement.

When I left I suddenly found myself hit by three weeks of strong, free floating anxiety. Oh yes, I had chosen to leave, I wanted to leave, but now I was in transition.

The boat had left shore but where would I end up? My future was not yet clearly in sight. This anxiety was so normal, although I didn't know it at the time and I panicked.

If you are feeling lost at sea and want help in reducing your anxiety I've found meditation very helpful in doing this. If you'd like to try meditation I recommend our "Happy not hassled" MP3 recordings to you. The meditations are the ones I used to help me overcome my panic attacks.

MP3s $29(US) Add to Cart

Three ways to manage the anxiety of transition

1. Feeling anxious: Understand it's a normal part of transition.

Knowing that anxiety can be normal for many people when they are coping with change can make it easier to cope with. Even when people have chosen the change they can find themselves feeling anxious. It can be quite normal.

2. Feeling anxious: Develop patience with it.

Managing anxiety by patiently sitting with the anxiety and confusion, and allowing the new beginnings to arise, is part of the journey of coping with change. Those who stay with the discomfort of feeling anxious and seeing the transition through to the other side may reap many rewards.

If you give in to the anxiety and instead of managing it try to run away from it by going back to your old ways, or old job, or old relationship, you may regret it later.

Managing anxiety may be as simple as watching your breath going in and your breath going out while the anxiety tingles and flows through your body.

3. Feeling anxious: Develop rituals. 

Developing rituals may help the anxiety to ease. For example, you might write letters to your anxiety: "Dear anxiety ...", write songs or poems about it, make a cake for it, plant a tree for it, draw a painting of it, write a book about it, sing a song, whatever you do, do something to acknowledge the anxiety so it can move on. 

When people become really frightened of it, I think, from my own personal experience, it's more likely to get worse and to stay. When people become friends with it and give it respect but not fear I have found it's more likely to go as we move through the transition stage.

Managing anxiety in transition in a healthy way can help you avoid getting stuck in anxiety. It can also making coping with change much easier.  May your anxiety reduce.

How to stop feeling anxious

If you want to help in reducing your anxiety I have found meditation very helpful in reducing mine. If you'd like to try meditation I recommend our "Happy not hassled" MP3 recordings to you. The meditations on there are the ones I used to help me overcome my panic attacks.

MP3s $29(US) Add to Cart


NB: Any information contained in this article is not provided as an alternative to the obtaining of psychological advice from an appropriately qualified practitioner. Rachel is not a psychologist, Dr or psychiatrist. If you, or people known to you, have significant anxiety please seek professional help and do not rely on this for the diagnosis or treatment of any psychological problems.