Daily Transitions

Thought for the week: Daily Transitions  (June 8, 2015)

I hear many people say they don’t like change. Integrated in every change is a transition phase that, when identified and managed well, can be key to dealing more effectively and healthily with change. Transitions come in a variety of forms. There are the small transitions that occur many times in our daily lives. For example, the transition from sleep to awake (and the reverse), from work or school to home, driving between errands or obligations, from having money in our pocket to spending that money, from taking care of children to having some alone time once days begin. Larger transitions include more significant life changing events like welcoming a newborn, changing jobs or homes, getting married or divorced, losing someone special or launching children to college and beyond. These will be discussed next week.

Many of us have adopted routines to deal with the smaller daily transitions: coffee, exercise or meditation first thing in the morning, walking the dog or a drink after work each day, or heading to the fridge or cupboard for food. Any of these are fine choices as long as they stay within there defined space. The sneaky nature of our habits in dealing with smaller daily transitions is when they become something more as we adapt to dealing with stress. For example, coffee in the morning becomes caffeine throughout the day, impacting your work productivity and sleep (leading to more caffeine). A drink after work becomes two or three or more, impacting relationships, sleep and your ability to function the next day. Nibbling on food can become grazing through the evening impacting weight, body image and self esteem.

The first step to adding or changing our habits is to identify them, as is the case with routines, we tend to not think about them. Take a moment to examine your transition “routines”. Do you have them? What are they? Are they helpful or do they nag at you and if so, what might be some healthier alternatives? Next, consider trying out some alternatives. If you don’t want to head for the fridge, argue with a family member, or pour a drink the moment you get home, try changing your clothes and/or taking a shower, easy stretching or simple yoga poses, petting your dog/cat or taking a short walk (even if just around the yard to notice the changes in the garden). Also, if applicable, consider letting the family know your plan. For example, “I need a few moments of quiet or alone when I get home.” Others can more easily be supportive when they know what is going on.

The next step is to be aware of when you are in transition, being present in the moment and say to self – “I am in transition”. This is where we literally begin to rewire our brains to change the habit. Note what you are feeling and where in your body you are feeling it. Even small transitions can trigger emotion. These are the emotions that we are comforting (or numbing) with our routines and we want to be conscious of them. Knowledge is powerful. If we want to change our responses or reactivity, we need information. Knowing how you feel may help you pinpoint a new, more effective routine to replace the old one.

The last step is to put the new plan in place. State your intention to yourself. “When I arrive, this is what I will do”. You are reminding your brain to create a new neural pathway. Then do it! I have broken this down into parts that may seem onerous. The reality is, it takes moments of focus and then moments of effort – temporarily. Eventually your new, healthier behavior will become routine. Very much worth the daily boost to our mental, physical and emotional health and overall sense of empowerment in our lives when we are successful.