I’ve learned to cope under stressful situations in the best way I know how, and have managed to create helpful processes and resources that made a world of difference in my transition. I hope these help make your transition a little easier on the soul too!
1. Institute a self-reflective process
Whether it is through prayer, writing, meditation or art – whatever modality you choose, find a process that will allow you to reflect on past experiences, or even on your day! It’s not uncommon to wake up in your transition feeling dazed and confused, wondering how to approach your day. I guarantee you that if you start each morning with a meditation practice or give yourself some mental space to reflect, you will feel better. And there’s some science as to why reflection is important.
When we have an experience, the memory of it lives in a certain part of our brain. When we reflect on it, the memory of it moves to a different part of the brain. This is the part of the mind that allows us to use the experience to make greater contextual decisions about our lives. It is also just a great exercise in general to spend 20 minutes each morning quieting your mind. In fact, I recently signed up for a 21-day meditation experience with good ole Oprah and Deepak. I know it sounds cheesy, but I can honestly say that it made a huge difference to create the self-reflective time that the program prescribed, and I am often recommending this program to my clients as well.
Start with a self-reflective practice as the first “to do” in your day. Another hack you can add to this is to identify the dominant feeling you want to feel for the day, as well as 6 things you want to get accomplished that will make you feel the most productive and happy. It will help set the course for your day, and will also help give you a daily “north star” during your transition.
2. Spend time focusing on what it is you are grateful for
It can be hard to feel grateful sometimes during transition, especially when the future seems like a big unknown. Whether it’s losing a job, going through a divorce, or healing from some event that did not make you feel so good, rather than dwell on the narrative you feel got you into this position, focus some attention each day on what you are grateful for in your life.
During my transition out of the non-profit organization I founded, very few people around me knew what it was really like to be in my shoes, and whenever I’d go home, the first question my father would ask me was, “What is your plan?” I know he meant well to ask this question, but after the tenth time, I wanted to scream, “Leave me alone!” One of the things I decided to do with my parents was to share with them how completely present I was being with the day-to-day. I sent them daily texts about what I was grateful for on that day. (This also helped divert their attention from being so focused on my future to being present with me in my day-to-day.) I would get the sweetest texts back from them about what they were grateful for. Most of the time it was the simple things - a good meal, company, companionship. It was a great exercise for all of us in being grateful and present in the now.
There are tons of studies that show that the practice of gratitude is good for our health and for reducing stress. I encourage the people I work with to write a list each morning of the things for which they are grateful and reflect on these things. And even if you are not in transition, this is a great exercise that will help you approach each day with a positive outlook!
3. Get your full financial picture in order
I facilitate Boot Camps for executives in transition in collaboration with a colleague of mine (Christy Haley Stover of the Platinum Resource Group). In one of the four weeks we meet, we invite a financial planner to come in to talk with our participants. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes for people! One of the most nerve-racking aspects of being in transition, especially when you aren’t earning, is the feeling that you don’t have enough. But with careful planning and using the right financial tools, you will be surprised by just how long you can go on the resources you do have. What I’ve seen is that people often don’t take the appropriate time to really map out their financial picture, and to understand exactly how much of a cushion they have.
If you haven’t done so already, get a monthly budget in order. Separate it by your fixed costs and your variable costs. Your fixed expenses are the expenses you have every month that remain the same - mortgage, cell phone, insurance, car payments, etc.. (If you don’t have a good template for this, I do – so ping me and I’d be happy to share it with you!) This will give you a sense of how much you need each month to stay afloat. Also, do small things like call your cell phone service provider, cable company, car insurance provider and just let them know you are in transition and that you need to lower your bills somehow. You’d be surprised how much I’ve been able to negotiate with vendors on bills. It’s their business to keep you as a customer, so don’t be shy about asking. Consult with your financial advisor as well. They can help you figure out how to plan and manage your money through your transition.
Then, it’s perhaps most crucial to make a cash flow plan – this is actually one of my favorite tools. It is useful when looking at how much money you have in the bank against your monthly expenses, and whatever else might be coming in as income for the rest of the year (gifts, unemployment, alimony or whatever). It allows you to plug in numbers and project out months so you can see what cash you will have left in your account each month, and conceivably, how many months you can last on what you have. (If you are a business owner or entrepreneur, then you should be familiar with this tool.) Having this tool along with a monthly budget and sense of your expenses will help ease some of the stress. What you don’t know does hurt you when it comes to finances.
4. Give yourself permission
Lastly, give yourself permission to be one thing and do one thing during your transition. After a major transition, it is not uncommon for people to find themselves in what’s called a neutral phase. It can often feel like you have no momentum, you’re directionless and unproductive. Fear not. It’s just nature’s way of easing you into the next phase of transition. Imagine a plant that has been uprooted from the soil. Its roots are no longer planted, so imagine what that must feel like for the plant. It has nothing to latch onto. It needs to find new soil to rest in, or the plant needs to be re-planted, or maybe new seeds need to go into the ground – you get the gist! The same is true in the neutral phase. So, go easy with yourself.
What I recommend to my clients is to come up with one way of being that they want to grant permission to themselves to experience during their transition. If you want to be a little lazy, give yourself permission to do that. If you want to feel energetic and active, focus on that. Then, come up with one thing you want to give yourself permission to DO. If you want to sleep until 11 a.m. on some days, allow yourself do that. If you want to eat Cheetos and watch Doogie Howser, M.D. re-runs all week, by all means, give yourself permission to do that (just don't do it for the rest of your life, please!). The less permission we give ourselves to be in these non-productive states, the more guilt we will feel, and the worse we will feel during our transition. So, be kind to yourself because sometime being unproductive is a necessary step to figuring out what next steps to take and what seeds to plant. In short, show yourself a little compassion.
These are a few hacks I’ve instituted along the way. I hope you find them helpful. I’m curious, what hacks do you or did you institute during your transition? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share away!