When I was twelve, my family moved to Singapore unexpectedly. I was the only new student starting at the school in the middle of that semester. On the first day, I felt like being put under a microscope — standing at the front of the classroom for an awkward introduction while a sea of unfamiliar faces stared at me. Since then, I have made many transcontinental moves across the US, Europe, and Asia. At each transition, it’s common to look at the
intimidating face of the unknown and miss the comfort of the familiar. Nevertheless, each
adjustment makes the next one easier.
We live in a world that change is inevitable. If you move to a different state or city, likely approximately half the people you would meet were not born there. A recent study showed that approximately one in four U.S. adults (24 percent) had moved across cities/region in the past five years. As we walk through life, there are also other changes that are out of our control — friendships and relationships evolve over time, companies go through re-organizations, social and political turmoils disrupt our daily lives. The following are a few practices that have helped me along my journey.
1. Be self-aware and understand grief
To be effective, we are often told to adapt and embrace change. However, it’s important to be kind to yourself and recognize the feelings that come with the change. Whenever we move forward, we leave something behind which explains the feelings of grief and loss. Whenever we confront unknowns, we are out of our comfort zones. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable regardless of how well you may adapt to change. Self-loathing and negativity are often counterproductive, while kindness and positivity often energizes and motivates us to action.
· Try to find outlets to process your thoughts and emotions (e.g., journaling, exercising, mindfulness practices, or stress-reduction techniques ).
· Take time to understand your needs and feelings. Use whatever that fits you in creating mental, emotional and physical spaces to process and digest the experience.
2. Don’t rush the process and be mindful of others
It’s so easy to rush through the transition process in our heightened emotional state, often prompted by our desire to “hit the ground running”. Sometimes it’s ok to drive on a slower lane rather than speeding on a highway. Specifically, when we make a change, it’s likely that we are not only affecting ourselves but also others in the process. It is healthy to slow down and assess the situation.
· How do your actions and decisions affect others around you?
· How do your words and actions make others feel?
It takes intentionality and sensitivity to consider the needs of others when you are under stress. Remember to be patient with yourself and others.
3. Set realistic expectations and find support
It’s helpful to set realistic time frames and expectations. It takes self-awareness and discernment to recognize the appropriate amount of time and support needed for you and others to adapt.
Sometimes it’s difficult to start a new chapter. When you encounter doubts, don’t feel afraid to reach out to your network for support. When insecurities surface, it’s also often helpful to look back and remember lessons learned from other transitions .
4. Learn to live with uncertainty
Living with uncertainty is easier said than done. The more we attempt to take control of the situation, the more we become inflexible and the harder it is for us to adapt. When faced with unfamiliar situations, though difficult, it’s critical to suspend judgment, keep an open stance, and remain curious. By maintaining an open mind, the transition will become easier.
New situations often create opportunities to confront old fears and re-assess priorities. The discomfort of uncertainty may also force you to focus on things that you can change and learn to let go of things that are outside your control. What are some steps that you take to move forward despite the uncertainty? What are new things that you can learn through the experience?
5. Find anchoring points and establish the new normal
In the midst of drastic changes, it’s helpful to find anchoring points. For example, if you have just moved to a new city, try to continue with a regular activity or hobby that you had enjoyed previously. If you had been doing yoga once a week, find a yoga studio and continue that practice in your new neighborhood. That will help you to establish some sense of familiarity and structure. Over time, you will find a new rhythm that will become your “new normal.”