Life transition challenges

Life transition challenges

Common life transitions

Life transitions occur throughout the lifetime: the arrival of a new sibling and starting school in childhood; starting work and new relationships in young adulthood; parenthood, moving house, adult children leaving home and retirement in mid or older life. The degree to which life events are perceived as stressful is dependent upon a number of factors including the person’s resilience, social support and how many stressful factors are occurring at once. A wide variety of feelings may be present during a major life transition: fear, excitement, anger, stress, happiness, sadness and many more.


Coping with transitions

To cope with transitions such as adult children leaving home and retirement consider the following strategies:

  • Acknowledge and reflect upon your emotions. When feelings are painful it can be tempting to reduce their impact and push them away. However, the life event is a major event in your life and emotional responses are inevitable and acceptable. Try to work out what you are feeling and wonder how this changes on a daily or hourly basis. Consider the mix of emotions and process these conflicting feelings; for example, feeling happy that you have more time with your partner and lost without your professional role upon retirement.
  • Accept the time it may take to transition. Major life transitions take time to adjust to. When your children leave home, things will be different and it is likely to take time for your routines and emotions to become stable again. Accept the process and the time it may take.
  • Actively build new routines. The process of accepting includes building a new routine, rather than trying to stay with your old one. Actively do new and different things, particularly things you may have always wanted to do but did not have time for, such as travel or joining a book club. This will ease the transition into your new lifestyle.
  • Think back to previous transitions. Remind yourself of the strategies that helped then and replicate them. Perhaps a certain friend was supportive when you moved house or a certain self-care strategy when you started a new job. Remember your ability to cope with change.
  • Give yourself permission. Human beings have a habit of excitedly anticipating a new phase of life, such as retirement, then experiencing negative feelings when the reality is not as good as anticipated. We are primed to seek out threats and this can mean we focus on the past or the future more than the current situation. Try to be mindful and enjoy the moment where possible, but also give yourself permission to look back on your previous lifestyle and miss it a little. No one time in our life is purely positive or purely negative; all have elements that we will miss when they are gone and elements that we wish away.


Dr Julie Hannan specialises in midlife issues and more information can be found at You can also speak to Dr Julie Hannan on 07530854530.