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August 2011
Handling Life’s Transitions
Reshma Hirani
Between life and death are these troublesome changes and transitions, though these transitions are part of life, it doesn’t make it any easier for teenagers, young adults, middle-aged individuals and the elderly. If you are someone who is going through this transition, you are not alone! The first step to understand this process is to understand what exactly these changes are.

Adolescents (free birds)
It is described as the most dynamic period, as the young individuals go through hormonal changes that initiate puberty, physical changes and sexual maturation. Another important change is the search for identity, where the teenagers look to answer the age-old question, ‘who am I’? Though most of the teens manage to sail through this transition, for some it might prove to be a struggle as they might find it difficult to accept and adapt to these physical, mental and emotional changes, hence leading to rebellion, risky and addictive behaviours, eating or depressive disorders, to name a few.

The 20 somethings (love birds and nesting)
This stage of life is focused on forming intimate relationships, marriage, planning a family and career. The problems a young adult might experience in this transition are, inability to form close or romantic relationships, inability to adjust from campus life to work life, disappointment with one’s job, financial instability, and loss of close friends from college, inability to start a family or frustration with one’s social or professional skills. The term given to this transition is ‘quarter life crisis’ where young adults are likely to feel trapped, anxious and depressed.

Midlife (empty nest)
This transition is experienced around the age of 40 and beyond. If an individual is experiencing a midlife crisis, they are likely to experience discontent with their life / lifestyle, need to do something different, are searching for a meaningful existence, are unhappy with their job or even physical changes like wrinkles. Ailing parents or divorce or children moving out leaving the parents alone, intensify these issues further, hence, rightly called ‘the empty nest syndrome’.

Retirement (empty nest)
Adults experience this transition over the age of 65. This age group’s crisis revolves around relationships, retirement and looking back at life and preparing for end of life. Most individuals who are retired or have lost a spouse are likely to experience loneliness, boredom and depression.

What can be done?

A lot of individuals sail through these changes without going through a lot of pain. However, for a few of us these transitions can leave scars forever. Though life’s stressors have gone up, the coping mechanisms have not. A few steps that can help during these transitions are:
  • Introspect – be aware of these changes and your perception of it
  • Plan in advance – anticipate unexpected events
  • Accept these transitions as part of life
  • It’s okay to ask questions to seek answers
  • Take these transitions as opportunities to transform
  • A strong social support system always helps
  • Enhance your problem-solving and coping skills
  • Practise relaxation exercises and stay fit
  • Explore your artistic side
  • Commit yourself to lifelong learning – be it career, relationships or learning about yourself
  • Mental health professionals can be instrumental in assisting to make a successful transition by designing programs to enhance your skills to deal with stressful life transitions!

Reshma Hirani is Psychologist Apollo Life,Hyderabad

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