When we’re young, life transitions are fun and empowering. We go from crawling to walking, walking to running. We start with training wheels but soon no longer need them. As we age, we graduate into higher grades and become more independent and gain more freedoms like the ability to drive a car, vote, and legally order a drink.

But as adults, life transitions sometimes are far from fun or empowering, because life transitions often include loss: loss of a job, a marriage, and loved ones. During these life transitions, we feel out to sea, completely at the mercy of the tides that seem to be tossing our life around.

If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed because you’re facing challenging life transitions, here’s a couple things to remember as you attempt to navigate the choppy waters.

4 Keys to navigating life transitions

Slow down

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Sometimes the best and most effective strategy for getting through difficult life transitions is to simply slow down. Literally and figuratively.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the pace of life seems to go faster and faster the older we get. Most likely your heartbeat and breathing have also picked up in response to the frenetic pace our culture and society. Well, it’s time to slow down!

As simple as it may sound, slow, deep breaths are a powerful way to tell your body that everything is OK. Right now, your body is probably in (or on the verge of) “fight or flight“ mode as you subconsciously, and maybe even consciously, feel you are being attacked. Make time each day to be still and away from the noise and chaos to breathe deeply and slowly. This will slow down your heart rate and create a feeling of calm and at peace.

Yes, it’s literally that simple.

Accept uncertainty

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Life transitions in adulthood are typically filled with uncertainty and unknowns. We can either learn to embrace and open up to this or continue to struggle against it.

I know that it seems completely counterintuitive if not downright impossible. However, when we surrender control and embrace the unknown, with an attitude of curiosity and openness, we feel positive emotions (curiosity, wonder) instead of negative emotions (lost, out of control).

Acknowledge the cycles of life

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Good, bad, or indifferent; everything in life will come to pass. This is a simple fact of reality.

Someone once said, “this too shall pass.” Life, like weather, has seasons. While you may feel stuck right now and like nothing is going the way you hoped or planned, recognize the truth, which is, this “season” too, shall pass. Transitions are just that, and uncomfortable bridge from one part of life to the next.

Fall back on traditions 

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Return to your rituals, your traditions, and your touchstones during difficult life transitions for a sense of familiarity.

Rights of passage have been used for thousands of years in all cultures to help people transition from one place in life to another. Maybe it’s time to call upon the wisdom of our ancestors and empower ourselves.

Rights of passage can put us in the driver seat. We can acknowledge that things MUST change because we intuitively understand that the human journey is all about facing challenges and becoming new versions of ourselves.

Life, such as it is, throws us curveballs and sadness and things that cast fear and doubt into our vision. This is natural and there is no escaping it. But there are always ways to navigate these challenges. If you’re struggling to get through a difficult life transition, find an awesome therapist or life coach you like and trust to help you return to center and find your lighthouse.

James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.