Tear-Free Transitions

reduce stress and find more balance during times of transitionMy two-year-old is a little angel until it’s time for a change in venue—no matter where we’re going to or coming from, transitions unsettle her and spark her worst behavior, from refusing to get dressed to crying to full-on tantrums. As much as I wish I could nip any bad behavior from her in the bud, I can identify with how she feels in those moments—transitions rile all of us. You don’t really know what’s coming next and you’ve got to just roll with the seemingly random change in plan, even when all you really want to do is draw circles with your blue crayon (or insert your own activity of choice here). The change from winter to spring–when insomnia sets in and I can never seem to pull together a temperature-appropriate outfit; waking to sleeping–when I want to loll in bed as long as possible; and finishing up a deadline to starting a new project–when procrastination rears its ugly head; are all differing levels of jarring.

I’m in the midst of a major transition at the moment—as I’m writing this, I’m a week away from my due date with our second baby. (Which is also why it’s been so long since the last Vegimental—I’ve been in the throes of finishing up a million work and personal projects and stymied by an extreme lack of energy. Please forgive my absence, and know that Vegimentals are going to come sporadically over the next couple of months.) I’m done with being pregnant but daunted by the idea of giving birth to and caring for a newborn. And because having as natural a childbirth as possible is important to me, there’s not much I can do to influence exactly when this baby is going to arrive.

About the only thing I’m in control of at the moment is my self-care—making sure I’m getting all the things I need to stay resilient and healthy in the midst of all the uncertainty. It’s all any of us can do when life is throwing changes at us faster than we can duck. Even though it’s daunting to be spending the money just as I’m facing taking a big dip in income due to my impending maternity leave, I have swallowed hard and signed up for prenatal massage, acupuncture, and a visit to a homeopath to help get my energy back up from its Death Valley levels and to help me stay as open and un-stressed as possible. The good news is that it’s working—now I just feel hugely pregnant, not hugely pregnant plus completely leaden. And I know that I’m making deposits in my health bank that I will have to draw on later, when it’s harder for me to take the time.

Being in this not-quite-here-yet-not-quite-there-yet mode has gotten me thinking about the ways we can make transitions a little more comfortable. Here are my best practices. I’d love to hear about yours as well.

Embrace the awkwardness. Life has plenty of ho-hum moments. Instead of wishing for the boring old good times, soak up the excitement in the air—even if it’s nervous excitement—to help you appreciate that fleeting sense of possibility. Maybe that means journaling about how you’re feeling when insomnia strikes instead of lying there, stressing that you’re not sleeping. Or starting a ritual that you continue until you feel the earth settle underneath your feet again, such as lighting a candle for your evening meal, or wearing a certain piece of jewelry—a butterfly broach, maybe—that reminds you of the importance of periodic transformation.

Do one thing that relaxes or inspires you. Change tends to send routine packing, so you may not feel you have time for a regular meditation or yoga or knitting practice. But do find one tiny thing you can commit to doing more days than not that helps you feel grounded. Maybe it’s a walk around the block, a five-minute yoga practice (that’s about how long mine has been lasting these past couple of weeks), or reading quietly before bed. It doesn’t have to be major. It just has to be (basically) regular. If you skip a day, don’t sweat it. Just start again the next day. My mini practices have been short walks and a little morning Kundalini.

Find your rhythm. I learned this from my daughter—following the same basic schedule of activities from day to day and week to week helps you stay calm when it seems like changes are being inflicted on you willy nilly. Each morning, we’ve been telling her what’s happening that day—whether that’s school, playgroup, a trip to the market, or even laundry—and I can see her relax as she takes a minute to envision how her day will go. It’s not always possible to do the same thing every day or every week, but you can find your touchstones and take comfort in their regularity. That could mean going to bed at the same time every night, following a morning routine, or committing to one class or other activity a week that helps you feel your best.

Heed whatever’s calling you. After I caught my fourth cold and a stomach flu (at the same time), I knew I couldn’t keep dragging my body behind me and head in to labor and delivery feeling like a wrung-out rag. That’s when I went on an appointment-making spree (with the acupuncturist and the homeopath and the message therapist), and I am so thankful to feel my old stamina returning. ‘Cause let’s face it–I’m gonna need it! Do not be afraid to call in the reinforcements, because we all need help to feel like ourselves from time to time.

How do you handle transitions with grace?
What are your tricks for taking change in stride? Share your tips by leaving a comment, and if I publish your comment in the next Vegimental (whenever it may be!), I’ll send you a copy of the brand new book A Life Worth Breathing, by Max Strom. Max is one of my very favorite yoga teachers. He’s studied Sufism and Buddhism and he takes a very broad view of how physical practices, such as yoga, breathwork and meditation, can help us handle our emotions and break free of old patterns that might be holding us back. This is a really special book. Trust me, you want a copy of this on your nightstand! So leave a comment already.

Congrats to Dawn!
She won a copy of Esther Gokhale’s book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back, for posting her inspirations for pursuing better posture. Thanks for writing in Dawn. Here’s her comment:

“My friends Sharon and Emily walk through this world as if their spine was just a natural extension of the earth, made to support them in everything they do. When Emily was pregnant, she was able to move so gracefully and comfortably through all the changes in her body. Definitely an inspiration!”

Take care and keep breathing,
Kate

3 thoughts on “Tear-Free Transitions

  1. Our family looks forward to a relaxing and peaceful dinner each evening where we get together to talk about our day. My husband and I will ask a question at the beginning of each meal…’What was the best thing that happened to you today?’ or ‘Who learned something new today that you didn’t know yesterday?’..to get the ball rolling. After a couple weeks we all found that each of us would be on the look out during the day for that piece of interesting info we could share at dinner that evening.

  2. When there’s alot going on in my life, good or not so good, or most likely some combination of both, I take time to write a list of everything that’s in my head – what needs to be done, everyone that needs my attention (sympathy or thankyou cards, birthdays, a plate of cookies, etc.) school stuff, and everywhere that money needs to be spent, and I leave that list where my whole family and I can see it. It gets it all out of my head and onto paper. And by leaving it on my breakfast nook for all to see, it’s sort of like sharing the load. I will cross things off as they are dealt with and sometimes I will see that someone has added something to the list that they wanted out of their head, or just drawn a smiley face or something funny on the side of the page. This trick makes me feel less alone with all the things rattling around in my head and keeps my family and I more in tune with each other. Best wishes for you, your family and a safe arrival for your new bundle!

  3. The single most important thing for me address is my own mind. It’s easy for me to have expectations for how I “should” be handling something, and then start to feel bad about myself (or yet, be critical of myself) when I’m more tired, or slower, or sadder, than I feel I “should,” or accomplish less than I expect. I practice mindfulnness, just noticing both how I am and also my thoughts about that. And when expectations or self-judgment pop-up, I name it for what it is, and just hold those thoughts, and myself, with compassion. Transitions are messy and unsettling, and leave us feeling vulnerable. Being “my own best friend” helps me move through them more gently and gracefully.

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