NAVIGATING TRANSITIONS IN MIDLIFE
Here’s how to embrace change, growth and renewal at the start of a brand-new season
By Bridget Belden | Contributor
SUMMER 2023 ISSUE
“Peace is accepting that everything changes. When we stop clinging to how things are, we can let go and embrace what’s growing in front of us. Doing this shifts our mindset from one that’s scared of change to one that’s energized by the excitement of future potential.” —Cory Allen
As a 57-year-old mom of two, I have lived therough my fair share of seasons both literally and figuratively. Like many people around my age, I’ve gone from college to career to marriage to mom.
Somehow when you are on your own trajectory as a young person, each season is a welcome one that typically is recognized as another rung in the ladder, helping you ascend to the life you’ve dreamed of.
Then as your focus shifts to your family, each stage of parenthood holds its own celebrations and heartbreak. Starting with the development and growth of your baby and all the various stages they go through: birth, sitting up, eating solid foods, walking, heading off to preschool. Each stage and their transition through it bring a new set of emotions — the passing of one chapter into the next — fraught with excitement, anxiety and cautious optimism about what lies ahead.
While riding that wave when they’re younger can feel scary, it is reassuring to know that they are still dependent upon you for getting them to school, teaching them the ways of life, and struggling through their homework. You always know that they are coming back home where you can continue to guide and teach them. And, well, let’s face it — keep tabs on them.
But something happens when they graduate from high school and begin the part of the journey without you. It’s summer, and some of you may be in process of dropping your kids at college or sending them off on their own. All you really have is the hope and trust that all those years prior — in which you poured your love, advice and discipline into them — provided them a toolbox of sorts that they will call upon as they navigate their own adult path.
And then it happens. You find yourself at the beginning of a brand-new season. One that shifts the focus back to you. And all the choices you’ve made to date, from where you chose to live to the partner you selected to join you on this journey, all come under renewed scrutiny. Suddenly, with the absence of this other being to focus on, it all comes down to you.
This stage of life is rife with transition. Your emptying nest. Divorce. Career changes. The loss of your parents and in-laws. Retirement. For many people, this is a tumultuous time. And if you were the primary caregiver of your children? It can be terrifying as well.
But here’s the thing. Transition, like the seasons, is inevitable. The good news? You have a choice. You can choose to be overwhelmed and terrified or you can focus on the positive. You can look at this time as an adventure. As a time to trust all the wisdom you have accumulated over the past 20 years to guide you into your next chapter. One step at a time.
I realize that this may sound easier said than done, but how you weather it all depends upon your ability to roll with it with a sense of humor, self-compassion and a whole lot of patience. Yes, it takes practice, but considering the alternative is to curl up into a ball and hope it blows over, it’s more than worth it.
Here are a few tips to help you build resilience while you are navigating your new path.
Embrace change: Recognize that change is a natural part of life and that midlife transitions offer opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery. Embrace new experiences and be open to exploring different paths.
Foster self-awareness: Take time for self-reflection and develop a deeper understanding of your values, strengths and priorities. This self-awareness will help you navigate transitions in alignment with your authentic self.
Cultivate supportive relationships: Surround yourself with a strong support network of friends, family or mentors who can provide guidance, empathy and encouragement during challenging times. Lean on them for support and maintain open lines of communication.
Practice self-care and compassion: Prioritize your physical, emotional and mental well-being and treat yourself with compassion. Engage in activities that promote relaxation, stress reduction and overall wellness. Make time for exercise, adequate sleep, healthy eating and activities that bring you joy.
Develop problem-solving skills: Enhance your problem-solving abilities by breaking challenges into manageable steps, seeking creative solutions and learning from setbacks. Approach obstacles as opportunities for growth and find ways to overcome them.
Foster flexibility and adaptability: Cultivate a mindset of flexibility and adaptability to navigate unexpected changes. Be willing to adjust plans, reevaluate goals and embrace new opportunities that may arise during midlife transitions.
Maintain a positive outlook: Focus on the positive aspects of your life and the potential for growth and new beginnings. Practice gratitude and optimism, seeking opportunities for personal and professional development. Instead of asking, “why is this happening to me?”, ask “why is this happening for me?”
Seek professional support: If needed, consider seeking guidance from therapists, coaches or career counselors who specialize in midlife transitions. They can provide valuable insights, strategies and tools to support your journey.
Remember, building resiliency is a lifelong process. It takes time, practice and self-compassion. By cultivating resiliency during midlife transitions, you can embrace the changes, overcome challenges and discover new opportunities for personal fulfillment and growth in this transformative phase of life.
Who knows? It could end up being your most exciting chapter yet!