I choose to live in Northwestern Wisconsin because I love the change of seasons and I especially enjoy the Fall. From the changing colors to time in a tree stand, to chasing fall crappies on our local lakes, to Friday Night Lights, Fall makes me come alive.
But this Fall, I find myself waxing a bit more nostalgic than normal and that is because this is my first fall with an empty nest. Our youngest is off to college and my house is feeling pretty big, pretty quiet, and pretty empty.
Transitions can be difficult under the best of circumstances whether it is kids off to college, a child starting kindergarten, a job loss, starting a new job, or a relational loss.
When not handled properly, these changes and transitions can spiral into other mental health issues. Here are some things to keep in mind if you find yourself smack dab in the middle of change.
- Stay busy. This is what we refer to as "medication by distraction." It is hard to focus on the anxiety and sadness that often accompany transition when you are intentional about staying busy. My son recently commented on how much wood I have cut this summer jokingly stating it was evidence that dad is missing his kids. Truer words have never been spoken.
- Focus on self-care and outlets. Self-care is anything you enjoy that recharges the emotional batteries and allows you to turn off your mind. Gardening, hiking, lifting weights, biking, running, working on "to-do" lists, time spent with loved ones, etc. The goal is to activate your body and rest your mind.
- Talk about it. It took me years to understand that a primary benefit of therapy is simply allowing people to hear themselves think through their life and problems. It is called the disclosure effect and you feel better when you offload verbally and emotionally. If you don't have someone to talk to, journal about it. Writing down what you are thinking and feeling can be very cathartic.
- Understand that change is part of life. As much as I wish my kids were still little and living under my roof, you don't raise them to keep them. You raise them to launch them. I had the season of having littles around the house and now it is their season to grow into all God has for them. "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them." -- Ecclesiastes 3:1-5
Learning how to effectively work through times of change and transition aids us in becoming resilient people. So learn to embrace change. Even though you may not be able to control your circumstances, you certainly can learn to control your responses to those circumstances.
Darren Cox is the owner of Anchor Bay Counseling in Spooner and Ladysmith, WI. He is a licensed mental health professional practicing in Wisconsin since 2004. He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary holding a Masters Degree in Biblical Counseling and he resides in Shell Lake with his wife of 25 years and 3 adult children.