By Olivia Heffernan, NYAC Peer Facilitator
Ah, back-to-school season. A time for new shoes, the gradual transition to wearing pants and a time to get a haircut.
If you’re lucky enough to be headed back to the same school or same job that you’ve been at before, thank your lucky stars. You know the routine, you probably know most of the people, and you have a sense of familiarity.
This post goes out to all those who are starting something new. To those who are transitioning, I’m thinking about you. Maybe you’re transitioning from high school to post-secondary, or from school to the workforce. Maybe your transition has nothing to do with school – perhaps you’re switching jobs, moving to a new town, living the single life after being in a long-term relationship. All of these are transitions and with transitions come stress.
As a young person with mental health issues who has gone through a LOT of transitions, I want to share my wisdom. Looking back, there are a few things that I have learned to do when going through a transition to keep the inevitable stress at a minimum.
- Plan for stress
I say this because many people try to make transitions as stress-free as possible. Unfortunately, they don’t think about the fact that stress is inevitable when making changes. Whether you are getting ready to start a new job (fresh out of school or not), getting out of a relationship, moving, etc., plan for the adjustment period to be stressful. When making your calendar, plan for down time in those first few weeks. That way when you do feel stressed, you won’t see on your calendar that you have to clean your house, have three bills due and two doctor’s appointments. Get unpleasant things out of the way (if possible) so that during this period of extra stress, you’re free to take care of YOU.
- Use healthy ways of coping
During your down time, use some of your healthy coping tools from your toolkit. Exercise, hobbies, relaxing with friends, meditating, journaling, etc. The list goes on and on. Before your transition, make a list of healthy things that you do when dealing with stress. Plug these things into your calendar so that you ensure that time is made for them. Try your best to stay away from drinking and/or drug use as ways of dealing with your stress. You’re already going through stress – why make things worse with a hangover?
- Remember that it’s not just you
This is a big one and applies across the board. Whether you’re at school, in the workforce, just chillin’, etc., everyone has gone through newbie experiences. You’re NOT expected to know how to use the copier on your first day (or 3 months later, but that’s another story) – very few people come into a job knowing how. You don’t need to feel ashamed for being homesick or for feeling awkward when trying to make new friends and relationships – if you’re at school, all other first year students are doing the same thing. You’re new. It’s okay. We’ve all been there and people understand how uncomfortable being new is. My best advice? Remember that it’s not just you. Embrace being new. There are millions of people out there who wish that they could be in your shoes again.
- Reach out to professionals
My mother never said this but I’ve heard it’s a thing: “An ounce of prevention goes a long way”. What I’m trying to say is that it never hurts to be aware of services that you might need before you need them. Do some digging and flag the ones that may be helpful – campus wellness services, walk-in medical clinics, nearby hospitals, etc. That way, when you’re sick, stressed, overwhelmed, and/or any other feelings that you may need services for, you have already done the leg work. Finding services (mental health and others) can be a pain so do the prep work now! Fill out the forms and make the phone calls. I swear, future-you will thank present-you for your foresight.
- ASK QUESTIONS
I typed that in capitals because I want to yell this through the computer. Asking questions is the best way to start feeling more comfortable. It may make you feel even more awkward when you ask how to make a phone call on the new phone at your desk (especially because it seems so simple) but people are generally fine with being asked questions. If you don’t know where the dining hall is, find a group of people and start off with “I’m new here, please help me”! You’d be surprised just how friendly people can be when you let yourself be a bit vulnerable.
Transitioning to something new is one of the times in your life where you are allowed to walk around not knowing anything. You are able to truthfully say, “I don’t know”. Soon, you’ll be an old pro, the one that people look to for answers, so embrace the time that you get to spend as a ‘new person’. Being new and not knowing gives you leeway. You’re expected to walk into a lecture hall of 500 people, sit down, and then get up to leave when the professor says what class they are teaching (and you are clearly in the wrong room). You’re not alone when you break the copier machine on your first week on the job. You are entirely within your rights to cry all night into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream because you miss your family so much or because you feel like an idiot at your job. Things will get easier and familiar to you.
We’re all in this together.
Some tested resources:
- Adulting (blog)
- Transitions – a complete guide to first-year post-secondary
- Life After College by Jenny Blake
Image courtesy of ‘Morgan‘ on Flickr.