As the temperatures rise and the first buds pop out of the ground, our thoughts turn from winter to spring. It’s a natural time of transition in nature, and it comes with a change in spirit for many of us. Most of us are good at recognizing the need to plan for the major transitions in life, such as retirement, graduation, or having a baby. We would not imagine going through these moments without thoughtful planning. However, each day there are smaller transitions all around us that go unnoticed. If we can recognize and better manage these transitions, we can experience a greater sense of calm, and of being present in each moment.
Let’s take a look at a typical day for most of us. The first transition is simple, yet important. Consider the difference between a person who hits the snooze button four times, and a person who gets up fifteen minutes early to meditate, or read a daily message. Next, consider the need to fuel our body. The difference between a person who juggles a muffin and briefcase, and eats in the car is drastic compared to a person who pauses to eat a well-balanced breakfast. Once out the door, most of us experience traffic. For many, the grind of the daily commute can raise our blood pressure, make us anxious, and change our spirits for the day. Once we transition to the start of our workday, we again face a choice to put out the most recent fire, or stick to our plan and do the things that move us toward our goals. When the workday ends, we face a choice to close out the day, and plan for tomorrow, or to rush out the door. Last, we have one of the most important transitions in the day, from work to home. Often, we open the door and are hit immediately with the tasks of bills, homework, cooking, and the activity of a busy household.
If reading the paragraph above made you feel anxious, you’re not alone. Modern life often has us rushing from one thing to another, and never pausing to be still, and living in the present. Our minds are stuck in the past, or preoccupied worrying about the future. Rarely are we in the moment, or “with” the people we care about. Take the example of my client Martha, a busy executive who told me that she dreaded going home after work. “I felt like the minute I walked through the door, everyone wanted a piece of me. Of course I love my kids. But I just wasn’t ready to be ‘on duty’ right away.” The first step for Martha was to recognize what was causing her stress. Then we figured out what she would prefer in her ideal world, which turned out to be time to decompress from her workday. Next, she had to share her needs with her family, and ask for their support to create this new routine. She asked for twenty minutes of quiet time when she got home. One of her children even joined her. The result for Martha was phenomenal. “I found that I was excited to see my family, to have fun, to enjoy cooking and hearing about their day. I was able to leave work at the office and be a totally present spouse and mother.”
Another couple I worked with also had stress around time with their four children. As soon as dad got home, mom needed a break. But dad felt that going straight from work to the kids, was not allowing him the breathing space that he needed at the end of his day. I began to look at a way to find a solution that would meet both of their needs. We decided that when dad got home, he would take the kids and play the guitar for them. He got a little time to pursue a hobby, mom got her break, and the kids got some fun time with their dad, who was happy and in the moment. The process started with us recognizing his stress, discovering their needs as a couple, and then creating a new routine. People often talk about “having it all” as a lofty goal that takes some amazing set of changes. But just think of how this small change impacted the father, the mother, and the children.
Managing transitions is not a skill most of us are taught, but it can be learned. Becoming aware of these hidden transitions in your day, and taking steps to make them work better for you, can be a major step towards reducing stress and adding joy to your life. Here is how to get started.
- Write down the stages in your typical day.
- Take note of the transitions. Which of these periods of the day typically bring you stress?
- Take each stressful time and ask, “What would that time look like if I could design it?” What are my needs?
- Communicate your needs to those around you. (This could be at home or at work)
- Pick one transition, and develop a new routine.
If knowing how to create new transitions and routines in your life is challenging to you, I’d love to help. Please schedule a complimentary coaching session with me today!