Life is not linear, and expecting it to be so can be detrimental to our wellbeing. “There is nothing real about the human experience in terms of it’s progressive, it’s linear, it’s not problematic, you can expect to be at this certain milestone at this certain age,” says Rich Jones, Chief Clinical Officer of Youturn Health, in the company’s Stress Management course.

Life is a series of transitions, and our mental health and wellbeing moves forward and backward based on how we process those transitions. If we’re unable to process a transition, we can feel stuck, caught in grief, trauma, or suffering. Some transitions may require professional help to move on from, but there are steps people can take on their own to try to become unstuck.

What is a Life Transition?

Bruce Fieler, author of  Life is in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age, refers to these transitions as “disruptors” or “life quakes.” These can be any range of situations – positive or negative – like a health issue, the breakup of a relationship, moving out of state, starting a new job, being fired.

According to Fieler, each person can expect to have 12-14 significant life disruptors in their life. “If you add in your family and friends,” Jones says “statistically speaking, it’s likely that almost everybody we know is going through some sort of life transition, or they know somebody who’s going through a life transition.”

While this can be overwhelming, it does shed perspective on two interesting facts:

  • You’re not alone in your experiences.
  • You’ve likely already successfully processed a major life transition and ended up better on the other side.

Steps to Process a Life Transition

According to Fieler and Jones, life transitions, good or bad, are a fact of life. Fieler provides seven steps to try to move through a transition and end up in a better state of mental health and wellbeing:

  1. Accept it. Accept the reality of the situation. You cannot bargain with a higher power or deny your way out of a situation and doing so will only prolong the crisis.
  2. Mark it. Make a commitment to today being the day you change, the day you start moving forward to a new attitude and outlook on the issue. Do something to mark the day – throw a party, remember it as your sobriety date, get a tattoo, etc.
  3. Shed it. Let go of your old attitudes, holding on to them will not help you move forward.
  4. Create it. Try new things, develop new skills, start new hobbies. Create your new reality and who you want to be on the other side of the crisis.
  5. Share it. Connect with someone close to you, let them know about your new attitudes and get feedback from them.
  6. Launch it. Reveal the new you. It doesn’t have to be done on a big stage, but share your success publicly.
  7. Tell it. Tell your story, share the details of where you were, how you changed, and what came of it. It’s your redemption story.

Jones cautions that just like life, these steps “are not linear. It’s not like you do one after the other. You can find yourself in any given stage at any given time, and you sometimes have to start over in the process.”

To get started with these steps, Jones recommends journaling: Identify the crisis and define how you’re going to be different on the other side of it, then use Fieler’s steps to make it happen.

Looking for help processing grief and trauma? Check out our Grief and Trauma Resources page for some free videos to help you get started.