Discover Your Support System During Your Transition

In other words, you don’t have to do it all

During a life-changing transition, when the ground beneath your feet feels like quicksand, you can often neglect seeking help from people and from other things that nourish you. One of the things that can help regain solid footing when things feel out of control is to discover your support system. Think of this as building your own Transition Team.

This sound familiar?

Anne* a client of mine recently had to place her father in an extended-care facility. In addition to this transition, there was all the important stuff that she needed to tend do on his behalf: his laundry, errands, banking, all while still trying to stop by and see him daily. She felt as if she was on a hamster wheel, constantly spinning, but not really getting where she needed to be, let alone, desired to be which was really just to spend quality time with her aging dad and occasionally some time just on herself. And do so without feeling guilty.

Anne was in a life-changing transition with several transitions pinging off one another. Her long-time role as daughter was shifting towards care-giver with new responsibilities and unfamiliar territory. Her dad’s move involved letting go of a family homestead. It was stressful to manage all of these changes by herself because Anne hadn’t yet begun to identity her support system.

In transitions, we forget our support system because…

…we do tend to manage all of this by ourselves. As women, we’ve been trained to take care of our loved ones first and tend to ourselves dead last, if at all. But we’ve also been culturally indoctrinated to do all of what needs to be done by ourselves. We forget that there are others who can help us through life, and especially during a time a transition. We forget that perhaps there are siblings who can share in the responsibilities, or can visit dad more often, pick up the laundry, or other relatives who might be happy to run a few errands on dad’s behalf.

This is why in times of life-transitions, we need to establish strong self-care practices, like remembering who you are and creating a daily rhythm. Discovering your support system is another key self-care practice.

Discover your support system

During a transition, knowing who’s on your side is an essential strategy. For instance, you may have helpful mentors or colleagues that can give feedback about your job change. In addition, it’s also a good idea to have an emotional support team that includes family members and friends, people whom you trust to ask for help, provide a bit of wisdom, or a shoulder to cry on if needed. People who will listen to you without judgement or criticism.

And this also means that you acknowledge those people who are not supportive because you will want to monitor your contact with them, along with setting some very clear boundaries.

Journal to Discover

Journaling doesn’t have to be long or daily or boring. Simple setting a timer for 5 minutes, taking a few deep breaths, and then picking up your pen to write to a prompt can provide significant insight and clarity.

In Anne’s case, she simply journaled to this question:

What or who can help you during this time of change?

As she wrote about it, she discovered that she did have people in her life who could lend a hand to making sure her dad was comfortable. Just as important, Anne also realized that she would need to let go of doing it all herself, and give someone else an opportunity to be of help.

Keep in mind that as you think about your support system folks, you want people and tools that offer true support and not criticism or judgment. Here are some more journaling prompts to help you identify Who and What can support you during your transition. These include both list-making and more stream-of-consciousness writing.

Hint: If feeling overwhelmed, list making is a way of creating order. It’s more left-brain focused. On the other hand, questions tend to be more right-brain, dealing more with emotions. Depending your state of mind and heart when you sit down to journal, simply choose what prompts seem easiest.

Discover Your Who:

  • Begin by making a few lists of:
    • Family and friends you trust and can turn to.
    • Medical or therapeutic professionals you may enlist for support including clergy.
    • Services that can provide information and guidance, like financial planners, an employment agency, human resource department, or in-home adult care agency. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm outside the box here. What other agencies or support groups in your area that are specific to your particular situation and transition? Is there a woman’s group that meets or a journaling circle you can participate in that can help support.
  • Journaling prompts to help discover who is a good support person for you at this time include:
    • Who would help me feel listened to and loved? Do I feel comfortable reaching out to this person? When would be a good time for me to do this?
    • With whom could I share a few ideas, wild dreams, or even a few action steps with this week about my transition?
    • Who has been through a similar transition as mine and seems to have gained wisdom from their journey? What might this person have to say to me?

Discover Your What

As you think about your soul-nourishing supports, these things you can do for yourself, know that what might feel supportive for you is totally up to you.

Some journaling prompts include:

  • Making a list of the things that nourish your body, soul, your spirit? Maybe it’s taking a weekly yoga or meditation class, or going for a swim. Or perhaps it’s regular worship or a monthly trip to the local museum. A walk outdoors at the end of the work day can do wonders for some and increase anxiety for others. Pets are another source of joy and support.  Everything on this list is fair game if supports you in healthy ways.
  • Other prompts include:
    • The best supportive thing I could do for myself right now is….
    • The last time I really played was…
    • When I think about my favorite place in the world, I imagine….
    • The best way I could take care of myself this week is….
    • One basic need I want to pay attention to this week is….because….
  • Make a short list of the things that you enjoyed as a child. Maybe it was chalking on the walk, or reading poetry out loud. Some further prompts include:
    • The things that made me smile as a child included…
    • When I was young, my friends and I enjoyed…
    • Where is my happy place? Go there if only in your mind, and explore it with your senses of smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing. What does it look like? What feelings does it generate? Who else is there? Ask if you can return to it again.

Once you have written out your support system with who and what nourishes you, keep this list handy. All them are now part of your Transition Life Support Team. And any of them could provide just the right kind of sustenance at just the right time to keep you from feeling overwhelmed and off the hamster wheel.

Next Post, I’ll dive deeper into the Transition Self-Care Strategy #4: Be Kind to Yourself.

Until then, you can read more about Transition Self-Care Strategies here:

Learn more about the three-stage Transition Process here:

*Name changed to protect privacy.

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