As the sticky summer heat fades into chilly fall mornings that greet us with the crunch of leaves under our feet, we are reminded of how temporary everything is. We wait all year for summer, and then it’s over in a blink. We savor the brief interlude of fall’s beauty before winter comes through with its darkness and chill.
This fall season, nature’s transition, becomes an opportunity to reflect on our own personal transitions, like starting up work again; ending a relationship; moving; going away to college; or having a baby.
When transitions occur, we make lots of arbitrary rules for ourselves in an attempt to get some ground under our feet.
We impose strict routines, rigid schedules, and abide by fixed ideas that place things into neat and tidy categories.
On the one hand, these structures can be building blocks for sound mental health. They are stabilizing, grounding, and help us simplify our little corner of a complicated world.
However, there is a shadow side to this intense structure. When we are beholden to these fixed habits, routines, and rules, we may unintentionally be going against the natural current of our lives.
This rigidity might be avoidance of our inevitable encounters with new versions of ourselves that are born of transitions.
When our lives change, we change. The fabric of who we are becomes newly woven with experiences that shape us into someone different.
There is a new you that emerges with each new chapter. In one lifetime, we will meet many different versions of ourselves.
Anxiety can result when we cling in desperation to who we were before, when that “you” isn’t there as it was before. We experience internal tension when we fight this newness and attempt to return to what was before.
After all, it’s scary to change. We spend a lot of energy curating and cultivating the person we want to be. When our lives and circumstances change and we find ourselves becoming someone we don’t recognize in the mirror, it is unsettling at best and more likely terrifying.
We are reminded that a lot of the control we *think* we have is really an illusion and an attempt to feel safe in a truly unpredictable life.
This is not to say that who you were is gone when things change – but rather, more colors are added to the fabric of your identity and threads of wisdom are gifted to us.
An antidote to anxiety in the face of transition is radical acceptance, which means that we accept reality for what it is, rather than willing it to be different. When we let go of the illusion of control that we all so desperately seek, we can experience a huge exhale, like the one that happens after a good, long cry. The relief of this exhale comes from acceptance of the flow of life’s seasons and chapters – rather than resistance.
My heartfelt message to you is this: It can feel scary to change, but it’s healthy (and inevitable) that we change.
If you can hold on through the feelings of groundlessness that accompany these transitions, there can be something beautiful on the other side. This is not to say that all routine and structure be thrown away; rather, it can be helpful to use these methods as tools to ground you as you make room for new things to emerge.
Breathe through the changes, be gentle with yourself as you adapt, and keep an open mind as you get to know new parts of yourself through these transitions. While change might start out as feeling scary and unwanted, it may just be the beginning of a beautiful metamorphosis.
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