September is back to school time and the stores are filled with shiny new pencils, binders and backpacks. For many, it’s the start of a new season; bedtime routines, lunches and homework. It can be a stressful time, as we switch gears, transitioning from the relaxed mode of summer to the structure of the school year.
That’s what a transition is; a change from one state to another. Back to school is one type of transition, but life brings so many more: becoming a new parent, an empty nester, approaching a busy season at work or taking on a home renovation project, to name a few.
It’s easy to feel disrupted and put aside our own well-being in a transition period. But wellness is so much more than the absence of illness. It can include eating well, being active, engaging in spirituality, having meaningful relationships, and feeling rested. Putting aside our own wellness at the very time we need the biggest reserves leaves us feeling depleted and less capable to managing change.
I wanted to share 3 ways I encourage my clients during times of transition:
This word makes some people cringe. It can imply a lack of spontaneity and fun. But the truth is we all need some semblance of routine in our lives. Establishing a routine in a time of transition can help calm things and give us something stable to rely on. A lack of routine can undo progress made so far, so why not establish a bare minimum that you require for wellness? For me, it means daily prayer, regular bedtime and meeting friends for a walk once a week. But what does it look like for you? This is where your physiotherapist can help you set up a plan that is manageable for you. If you are a therapist, what is your self-care routine? It is important for us as therapists to not get so caught up in taking care of others, that we forgo our own self-care routines.
Transitions offer a natural reflection point where we look both inward and forward to the future. Just like keeping an eye on the horizon over rough seas gives our brain a sense of orientation, looking ahead into the coming season and beyond gives us something to look forward to. Perhaps there is a yoga studio you’ve always wanted to try, a cooking workshop you’ve thought about or a book club you’ve wanted to join. Glancing into the future can take the focus off the present and can be a welcome reprieve from the daily routine of our lives. This brings excitement and anticipation into being for us. We don’t want to live for the future, but looking forward to an exciting event or change is pleasurable.
This is a tough one for many people. Accepting that this transition period is the new normal, at least for now, allows us to be fully present right where we are. This is called mindfulness. Putting life on pause until “one day” comes is a sure fire way to feel dissatisfied. This is another area where your physiotherapist can be an encouragement to you. Accepting life as it is in this moment, building solid goals towards what the “future you” will look like allows you to not get caught in a whirlwind of secondary suffering. Secondary suffering is wanting life to be different than what it is right now. Acceptance is not a passive, resigned state of affairs but a self-reflective state that says, “this is where I am right now, and it is okay”. Setting goals and working towards how you would like to see life change, in your function, relationships or daily activities paves the way to future change.
Transitions come in many shapes and sizes throughout life. It’s easy to put ourselves aside during transitions which only erodes our sense of well-being. Your physiotherapist can help you set up a routine, to look ahead to the future and to help you accept this new phase. Your future self will thank you!