June 28, 2019

No matter how long you have to prepare for a big change, facing and moving through it is never easy.

Even when you’re looking forward to the end of a chapter—say, college graduation or a fresh start in a new city—actually making that leap stirs up some intense emotions. There’s the loss of whatever (and whoever) came before. The unknown of what happens next. The pressure to make all the right moves—and quickly.

The good news is that you’re not the only one left reeling by big changes. A 2011 study found that processing the end of a relationship can trigger activity in the same part of the brain as physical pain. Other ends can be similarly upsetting, especially when you factor in the need to continue on as if you have everything under control. Everything from a department shift to the Game of Thrones series finale can push you out of your comfort zone, ready or not.

No matter how long you have to prepare for a big change, facing and moving through it is never easy.
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It may feel like all your energy needs to go toward figuring out what comes next, but these big transitions are when self-care matters the most. Below, how to care for yourself through a major transition.

Notice What Doesn't Have to Change

Change can be extra tough when it feels like you have to make a total switch—if you can, grant yourself a smoother transition.

Maybe you loved the thrill you got from watching each new GOT episode, and can’t imagine starting your week without rehashing the whole thing with your coworkers. You can’t bring the show back to life, but you can find another Sunday night must-watch (may we suggest Big Little Lies?) and recruit your work pals to obsess along with you.

If you’re bummed about losing Saturday morning coffee dates with your soon-to-be-long-distance BFF, commit to hour-long Saturday morning phone calls.

Saying goodbye to your home for the past four years? Scout out your new go-to yoga studio or cafe in the city before you unpack.

Keeping those constants can help the change feel a little smoother, and put the power back in your hands.


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Find a Change Buddy

Chances are, you’re not the only one going through a transition.

Maybe a friend went through a recent breakup as well, or there’s an employee who started just a few weeks before you. Even a novel or movie with a character in your situation can be comforting.

Seeking out someone who can trade "change" stories can remind you that you’re not alone in this, and when you look back at this wild time in your life, you’ll have someone to laugh about it with.

Make New Self-Care Habits…

A new chapter is fertile ground: You’re still the same person, but the new setting can make establishing healthy habits easier than at other times.

Maybe it’s twice-weekly walks around your new neighborhood, or taking yourself out for a solo dinner on Thursdays.

Pick something manageable, then stick to it. Taking some you time gives you space to process the change, and helps you feel like you're accomplishing something when everything else feels tenuous.

… But Keep the Old

Transitional periods can be majorly disruptive, and the first things to go are often self-care habits. You skip meditating for a few days while you’re packing and moving, and next thing you know it’s been a month since your last deep breath.

Your regular practices can help ground you when everything else feels up in the air, so make a point to stick to them—or, at least an abbreviated version.

Worry you’ll forget amid all the hubbub? Ask a friend to hold you accountable, or set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take a break (and a breath!).

Your regular practices can help ground you when everything else feels up in the air, so make a point to stick to them—or, at least an abbreviated version.
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You’ll get the benefits of your practice, plus a little help handling the unknown. Management research has shown that continuity—aka maintaining a sense of identity—in times of change can decrease employees’ resistance to a company’s transition.

Holding onto tried-and-true habits while everything else is changing just might make your own change a little easier to stomach.


Got a few moments?: International Self-Care Day is coming up and we want to hear from you. Take 2 minutes to answer questions about self-care and what it means to you. Get started here!

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