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TransitionWorks: A New Way to Think About Change

Examples of Transition


Entering College

Entering college as a first-time student can be challenging and accompanied by uncertainty. Students moving from a rural to an urban setting may find the experience even more stressful as they adjust to a new environment and a new setting. First generation students may feel additional pressure to succeed. While many students adapt fairly quickly, for others the process can take time and be more difficult. In addition to missing their families and friends, students may be uncomfortable trying to make new friends while adjusting to college life. They may be unsure of the direction to take and where to find assistance.

In addition to the social adjustment, students need to manage their finances, perhaps for the first time. It’s important to save a little money, even if cash-strapped, so they don’t have to rely on their family for a concert ticket or special event. Setting up a a budget may be time-consuming at first, but a necessary skill, and one they will have for life.

This is the time to count your resources and figure out what you need. For example, evaluate your total Situation. If finances are a major issue that might cause you to rate your Situation as low. What about your Supports? This is a totally new experience and you may be unsure as to where you fit. What may help is meeting new friends by joining groups and being open to trying new activities. You may have lost your Support system when you moved to college. Fortunately, many others are in the same situation and open to meeting new people. Taking a good look at your Self may help you understand why you may be struggling. Are you friendly and outgoing or more introverted and reclusive? While you can't change your nature, you can take steps to ease your discomfort. Using new Strategies will enable you to take charge of this transition. Perhaps you can join a group of students with a shared interest. You can tell yourself that what you're feeling is normal and that your classmates are probably experiencing the same uneasiness you are. In time, most people adjust. Positive self-talk will help keep you motivated. If you are unable to move forward, you may want to visit the counseling center to get assistance from a professional.

Graduating from College and Entering the World of Work

Graduating from college presents students with a new challenge--what will you do now? Again your Situation, Support, Self and Strategies will all be impacted. The uncertainly about what to do can create apprehension. Fortunately most colleges and universities have career centers to help you explore jobs in your field. Your Strategies may include research, making phone calls, letter to companies, talking to people in the field you want and being pro-active. One young woman described called a company where she wanted to work several times until she was interviewed and got the job!

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The rapid rate of growth of older people (65 years and older, and especially of the oldest old, 85 or older) has created many challenges for family members. Many adult children face the dilemma of providing care for their older relatives, while at the same time, caring for their children. Family members are affected socially, emotionally and financially as they struggle with difficult decisions. "Can Dad live alone anymore?" "Can we afford to send Mom to day-care?" "How can we tell Dad it's not safe for him to drive anymore?" These are common areas of concern that caregivers struggle with on a regular basis. Many find themselves treading new waters-they don't know where to turn in this unfamiliar arena.

The Transition Guide can help caregivers through this challenging transition by helping them define their strengths and deficits. First, they will be able to take stock of their individual Situation, their Supports, Self and Strategies for coping. Next, they will be better able to take charge by strengthening their weaker areas. The Transition Guide has been used successfully by hundreds of caregivers to help them devise an Action Plan and reduce their stress. The simple act of taking charge can be empowering to those struggling to understand and function more effectively in their role.

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"Together Again, but Worlds Apart", a recent headline in the Washington Post, emphasizes the difficulties endured by military families who have been separated for several months. Moms away from their children, new dads who have never seen their babies--these are some of the stresses experienced by both those waiting at home and those on foreign soil. While initially there is tremendous joy at being reunited, there is much adjusting that needs to be done by both parties.

Wives and partners who remained at home learned to buy houses, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries alone, fix flat tires, and comfort children. Many became more independent and wondered what it would be like to reunite with their partner after a long separation. The returning spouse experiences conflicting feelings--elation at seeing family mixed with sadness for all the missed significant life events--events that can no longer be recaptured. The horrors of war are difficult to cope with when returning home and seeing life going on as fairly normal.

Both partners will need time to readjust to each other--to changes in themselves, their relationships and routines. Many have endured tremendous hardships and are angry and resentful. What can help these families integrate this transition and move ahead with their lives?

The Transition Guide is an assessment that helps people look at their deficits and resources and then develop new strategies to identify resources that need strengthening. It empowers individuals to know that while many events were out of their control, there are concrete steps that can be taken to retake control of their lives.

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Retirement changes every aspect of your life. For the first time you have no set place to go, no particular time to be there, no specified way to dress, and changed (often reduced) financial circumstances. For some this provides a sense or relief; for others, it is a time of anxiety.

Adjustment to retirement depends on many factors but, perhaps, most important is whether or not it was voluntary or forced, and how many hats you wear other than your work hat. In addition, retirement is not a single transition. It is part of multiple transitions-health, family, location. It is therefore important to assess your strengths as you negotiate this transition.

As a first step, you can look at your resources for coping with retirement. What is your Situation at the time of retirement? If three months after retiring and moving, your spouse has a stroke, your Situation is low. If, on the other hand, you retire, move, buy a boat and meet a wonderful partner in the boat club your Situation is wonderful.

Then look at your Supports. For some, departing from the comfort and routine of everyday relationships with co-workers can be a major loss. For many, increased attention to family and friends outside of work can fill the void. Increased activities will also provide opportunities for new kinds of support.

Of course, you need to assess your Self. Are you able to deal with the ambiguity of an unknown future? For some this is exciting; for others frightening. To strengthen your ability to deal with the many changes associated with retirement, you might consider help from a professional counselor, psychologist or peer group of others going through this type of transition. Perhaps reading a book or article about adjusting to retirement might be helpful to you.

If you find that you do not use lots of Strategies, look at the coping strategies listed in the Transition Coping Guide. Select one or two that you never use and start practicing. Talking to friends and acquaintances who have gone through retirement is often an effective strategy. Just taking a small step can make a significant difference.

And remember, time is one of the best ways of dealing with change. It takes time to adjust to any transition. Remember, today is not forever!

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"Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them -- work, family, health, friends and spirit and you're keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls - family, health, friends and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered."
--Brian Dyson, CEO of Coca Cola Enterprises

The demands of work and personal life have always been regarded as two separate domains. Employees were expected to leave their personal concerns at home and concentrate on performing their jobs efficiently and productively. Many employees reported high levels of stress and feeling burned-out.

During the past several years, the theme of Work-Life Balance has been the focus of many companies as managers realize that staff are far more productive when their individual needs are taken into account. In fact, many Work/Life programs have been instituted at companies, including flex time, help with child care and elder care concerns, housing and schooling. These programs were designed to accommodate workers in their personal lives.

Why is it, then, that so many employees still suffer from an inability to integrate their work/life demands? Why does there never seem to be enough time to carve out for family and personal needs? Why is it that people are still feeling stressed and can't get anything done?

The reality is there are different points in peoples' lives when there are fewer choices regarding work life balance. Single moms, parents with young children, and people who travel extensively in their work are a few examples of people with tremendous time pressures.

Can anything be done to help people who are juggling multiple roles? We believe there is.

The Transition Guide can help people look at their specific Situation, their Self, their Support system and their Strategies in order to determine which S needs bolstering and then create a specific plan on how to achieve more balance in their lives. For example, a person who values exercise but has no time to work-out may take a brisk walk with a colleague during their lunch break to discuss business. Other people may reframe how they view their situation, i.e., today isn't forever, this, too, will pass, I am doing the best I can. The point is to be creative to minimize stress. There is always some action people can take, however small, that can help them.

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While people generally think about changing relationships as losses, centered on separation, divorce or death, relationships can also be viewed as gains, such as new commitment and/or marriage, becoming a grandparent or even a great grandparent. Changing relationships can be high impact transitions, resulting in a change of routines, roles, responsibilities and assumptions about yourself. What may be positive for you may be negative for someone else; thus it is difficult to generalize about which strategies you might use to help you cope.

Looking at your 4 S's will enable you to determine the most appropriate way to deal with your relationship transition. For example, if you are divorcing and losing the Support of your spouse/partner's family, you would need to find another source of support. There are many support groups for separated and divorced people. Therefore, your Action Plan would be to find an appropriate support group. On the other hand, if your Situation is low because you will have a reduced income and may have to move, you might get professional advice, read books and articles about your Situation and talk to others. If possible, you may try to change your Situation. Perhaps you might use the Strategy "reframing" so that you can view your Situation more positively.

It is hard to be depressed if you are actively taking steps to change one of your 4 S's.

If your Self area is low because you feel a loss of control and resiliency, you may want to seek professional guidance to help you cope; or read self-help books for insight and encouragement.

If your Strategies are low, think about what strategies have helped you during previous transitions? What strategies might you use to help you manage this one? If you're dealing with a divorce, for example, you may need to assert yourself and look anew at your life goals. No matter what the transition, engaging in humor and laughter always reduces tension, even for a short time.

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