How To Deal With Major Life Transitions

How To Deal Major Life Transitions, how to deal with stress, major life change, how to deal with anxiety, how to cope with stress, quarter life crisis, millennial blog

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group®  and The J.M. Smucker Company, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #DunkinDonutsPublix

-Everything I've ever let go of has claw marks on it- david foster wallace

I don't do well with change, especially during major life transitions, like moving and getting a puppy. I've learned to cope with my anxiety over the years, but even when change is good, I can feel my shoulders tighten while heels dig into the ground… and lately, that's still held true.

E and I moved less than a month ago as I write this. The entire process was both smooth and disastrous (we didn't have TV or internet for over a week – and seeing how I run a blog and work as a digital business coach, well you can imagine my stress levels). To add to the super fun time, the only pieces of furniture we owned at the time was my desk and an entertainment center. I've basically just been inhaling Dunkin’ Donuts® Coffee from Publix to keep my eyes open as I sift through all the furniture on-line and try to get work done. It's been my silky, smooth happy place.

While I've been trying to stay awake and find some semblance of normal, E knows how much having a dog around helps with my anxiety, so on top of the move, he began hunting feverishly for a dog. I was both excited and really against getting a dog. I love dogs. I really do. So much so that in 3rd grade my mom gave me money for books at the book fair, but I came home with puppy posters (and proceeded to be grounded for a week). I'd always wanted a dog, and finally when I went to college I got one. His name was Charlie and he was perfect. He was sweet, playful, calm, never barked, and got along great with people and other animals.

During that same time, the chemo and experimental trials for my dad's terminal cancer diagnosis weren't working anymore. He did really well with Charlie when I would come home, so my mom decided to get him a dog, which he named after his Harley Davidson. Charlie and Harley got along great initially. Fast forward a few years, and my dad passed away. I had recently moved back in with my parents and while the dogs were still getting along well, there was some question as to “whose house” it was. About a month after my dad passed away I had to leave my parents house for about a year and couldn't take Charlie with me.

I think the change of the two alpha's (my dad and I) leaving, combined with the new living arrangement, led something to snap in the pups. They started to viciously attack each other like nothing I'd ever seen before. I moved back home with my mom and even so, the two dogs were trying to fight to the death. We tried everything, a trainer, crating, but it was too unsafe to keep them both. To this day, thinking back on that time breaks my heart. I still wonder if I did something wrong and how I could've been a better dog mama. Ultimately, my mom and I couldn't bare the thought of giving away Harley, it was our last connection to my dad. We found Charlie a great home with one of my mom's co-workers, who he truly loves to this day.

Needless to say, I spent many hours in therapy over Charlie. I wanted a dog so badly my entire life, and I felt like I failed. So when E wanted a dog, while I really wanted one too, the self blame was coming out and I've been terrified I would mess another one up.

Slowly but surely, we kept going from shelter to shelter to find one. However, we were looking at some pretty “in-demand” pups and since we don't have a regular vet they didn't want to give us one.

*FUN FACT: Most shelters will prioritize “in-demand” dogs based on several factors, but two of the leading factors are:
1) whether or not you've owned that breed in the past and
2) whether or not you have a vet or have had a dog in the last 2 years

As it became clearer and clearer that rescuing from a shelter probably wasn't in the cards for us. E took to craigslist where he found two Snorkies (mini schnauzer / Yorkie mix). He showed me the picture and I was like *eh*.  I still wasn't totally sure how prepared I felt to be a dog mommy again. He reached out anyway and the woman sent us more pictures and I began to fall in love.

We went and met her and the pup and as soon as he came out of the car he started reaching out of her arms for me. I held him and he was licking me like a maniac. I knew he was our dog right away. He was everything I had been looking for (I love dogs that don't shed and look like old men when they are young).

That night E and I just stared at him and went crazy as we both fell head over heels. The dogs name was Brooklyn, which we loved, but it felt more like a girls name, so we decided to rename him to Tucker.

He's 14 weeks and 5 lbs. He'll probably get to around 10-15 pounds. He is unbelievably sweet, shy around strangers and other dogs, and basically sleeps or plays alllll day (but mostly sleeps). He loves Beyonce, but hates the Wu-Tang Clan. His favorite toy is this little guy:

His previous owners had crate and pee pad trained him. We are trying to keep things as similar to his previous life as possible, so we decided to put his crate in a bathroom with pee pads so it could replicate his previous overnight situation… but boy did he cry! I woke up in the middle of the night because he was crying. Slowly but surely he cried less and less, but I still haven't been sleeping the same. *Is this what it's like to have kids?* I just worry about him overnight, alone. Needless to say, I've been needing all the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee I can get my hands on from Publix!

It's been about a week now and he is doing great overnight and with his crate during the day when I have to leave for 30-60 minutes. He's also going entirely outside minus overnight and 1 accident a day (this boy goes to the bathroom literally 10 times a day!). Even though he is literally perfect, it's still change.

With all of this craziness happening, while it's all great things, I am needing to stay on top of taking care of myself.

6 Tips For Taking Care Of Yourself During Transitional Times:

1. Indulge.

Whether it's taking a bath or indulging in the delicious variety of flavors Dunkin Donuts coffee has to offer, take the time to give yourself a treat. I know I would barely be functioning or able to keep my head on straight if it wasn't for daily dose of caffeine during “me” time. In fact, with the pup and weird work hours, I need all the coffee! Some of you guys have asked about this in the past too, so here's how we make our iced coffee:

Basically it's this thing called a Mizudashi. You steep the coffee ground over night in the beaker. In the morning it's ready to go, just add ice!

Add water and let it steep over night!

I do drink hot coffee too, especially with the pup coming along, I need some extra cups to help me power through the afternoon! Dunkin’ Donuts offers a ton of variety in flavors and forms, (like K-Cups, grounds, or whole beans), but lately I've been all about their bakery collection! It really tastes like such a treat.

Find the things that keep you feeling grounded and anchored, and indulge in it! Whether it's a delicious cold brew by yourself, coffee with friends, a walk on the beach, or getting your nails done. Whatever that thing is, make sure to get your dose of it daily or weekly!

2. Let go of guilt.

If you didn't just skip down to my tips, and read the above story, you'll know I had a lot of guilt around my last puppy. But guilt can come up during transitional times in ALL sorts of ways. If you're going to college, you could feel guilty to be leaving friends or family behind and actually enjoy yourself in the process; if you're starting a new job, you may feel guilty about not negotiating a higher salary or leaving old co-workers behind in your last job. Even when the transitional periods are good, many of us still experience some pangs of guilt for the life we are leaving behind, and that's okay. Acknowledge it, breathe it in, and exhale it out. Acceptance of the new stages in life becomes a lot easier when you've acknowledge and let go of the guilt. It makes the waves of emotions that come up a lot easier to understand and work through.

3. Create a Schedule.

Transitional times can often feel 100% out of our control. Even though it's probably the most difficult time to do this, try to create a regular schedule. Giving your brain and body an anchor of consistency to hold onto can really ease additional stress. Try to write down running to-do lists in the notes section of your phone so you aren't racking your brain trying to remember that thing you forgot. Move the items from your to-do list onto your calendar in scheduled increments. Give yourself permission to reschedule things if the unexpected comes up.

4. Be present.

Acceptance is a lot easier when we can be present and enjoy the beauty of each moment. During transitional times, there is so much new information and new experiences to take in at any given moment. Try to keep your cell phone away, and soak it all in. Ask questions, do research, but enjoy the new connections with others, the world, and yourself. Transitions are an opportunity to learn and grow on the path we are meant to be on.

5. Ask for help.

For many of us, transitional times mean a loss of equilibrium. Let go of some of your regular responsibilities, like cooking or cleaning, and ask for help. Or if you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed by a new task at hand, enlist others for support and wisdom. Again, transitional times are about learning and growing, so get support from others to reduce stress and truly flourish.

6. Visit familiar or comforting places.

Especially if you've gone through a recent move or change in physical environments, try to visit old comforts or familiar places to add a sense of peace and security.

Growing up, I LOVED going to Publix. Legit, it was my favorite place (and it's not just because I had a major crush on the bag boy, but yeah, I totally did). There is something about having a rough day, and going to Publix, and knowing the friendly staff always crackin' jokes or that I can get the tastiest chocolate chip cookie from the bakery that just feels so good. No matter which Publix I go into, it's the same familiar and safe feeling. There was actually a time in my life, where everything was changing and going upside down, but I would literally go to Publix every day as the constant in my routine.

*BONUS: Take advantage of $1.00 off any ONE (1) Dunkin’ Donuts varieties now through 5/6/17 at your local Publix, while supplies last!

If you take a step back, you will probably be surprised by the places that have grown to feel like an extension of you over the years, so take a moment and think about where do you get the warm and fuzzy feeling and make sure to spend some time there.

Lastly, remember, even when change is a blessing, it still takes a little extra elbow grease to make the transitional period smooth and wonderful.

How do you deal with transitional periods?

138 thoughts on “How To Deal With Major Life Transitions”

  1. Steph Gregerson

    That PUPPY!!!! I can’t get enough. Also, those 6 pieces of advice are fantastic. It’s pretty much my daily life – not just transition times, because it keeps me sane to have schedules and have some “me time” scheduled in 🙂

  2. Wow, what a great post. This came at a perfect time for me. My husband and I are moving into our first home this coming Saturday, and I have been struggling with stress so much lately. What great reminders and tips! I also lost my dad to terminal cancer a few years back, and I don’t think I will ever get over that, but writing and doing what I can to make him proud have helped me so much! Hugs to you!! Also, your dog is just precious!

  3. Vukosavljevic Ana

    You are such a brave girl! Im sure you are going to be great mom to this cute little dog ? Those tips are very helpful, thank you!

  4. Great post! my husband and I just bought a house and we’re in the process of moving, but living in two places at once as we try to paint, install hardwood floors and then move in. It’s pretty stressful! Coffee is definitely my indulgence and safety net every day too! Tucker is absolutely adorable – I think it would have been impossible not to fall in love with him!

  5. Shannon @ Lady's Little Loves

    Gosh you are just too cute! And such a great post! My husband and I were just talking about this the other night!

  6. Rachel – you’ve been through so much and I really admire your strength! Personally I hate transitional periods and get a lot of anxiety too. I think keeping in touch with my family, eating healthy, and “down-time” help me transition better.

  7. I loved your openness and vulnerability in this post…and your puppy of course! I agree 100% with letting go of guilt and sticking to a schedule! A healthy routine is a must!

  8. such a cute puppy. Thanks for your openness with this post. I agree with asking for help when you need it and also being present. sometimes we get so carried away in our own things and forget to make the new connections around us.

  9. Transitioning is never easy, but I think you nailed it with these tips! Coffee and puppies? Heck yes. And trying to stay in the present moment can be easier said than done, but is so so effective in eliminating stress.

  10. This is such a great post and thank you for your openness! My father also passed away, I was 12 and remember all of the life changes I had to deal with at one time – we had to move to a new house, my dad was gone. Everything around me felt like it was changing. So it was hard to transition to my new surroundings and had to put a lot of what you talked about above into practice. Dealing with transition is always difficult, even if it’s a good change like a new puppy or new house. It is so important to take time for yourself and come up with some sort of schedule (just to keep yourself sane)!

    Congrats on the new pup and new house! 🙂

    – Kristen

  11. Jessica Bradshaw

    I had to go back and reread everything because I was distracted by the adorable puppy pictures. Great tips! I think being patient is one of the most important ones. I pray and talk with my family. 🙂

  12. He is so cute! Like, stinkin’ adorable! And I think “Tucker” fits him super well!
    I also love how you make iced coffee. I need to try that!

    1. Haha thank you!!! The first few people we told his name to kind of just looked at us! and do it! the thing is only like $15-20! It saves a buttload of money and since the coffee never heats up, just to cool down, it limits the bitter taste the process can give it!

  13. Your puppy is so cute!! Congrats on your new pup! And your new house. 🙂

    I totally get you on the guilt and fear when getting a dog. When I got my dog, I made the decision to get her, but I was so afraid that I would fail as a dog owner. I still worry that I’m not a good enough owner sometimes and am always searching for the way that I’m failing her, when in reality she’s a happy, healthy dog. I just need to let go of those fears.

    I love this post! I’ve found that seeking help when I’m going through a transition and stressed is so helpful, but it’s always a last resort thing that I try. I’m not sure why, but I need to do it more often.

  14. LOVE a the puppy photos! I also couldn’t agree with you more on indulging and making sure you set aside time to get a schedule together! Both are so important!

  15. Elizabeth Johnson

    First, Tucker is so cute! He looks like a Tucker. Getting a dog is definitely a transition. My husband and I got a dog four months before our first child and even though it was tough the timing was perfect. I could not imagine training a dog and having a newborn. That would have been way too much.. It gets easier and the bathroom frequency gets less. Just give it some time. 🙂 I am so excited for y’all and your new additions. Second, I really like your tips on how to deal with changes. I really have to ask for help when things change. I get overwhelmed and feel like I have to do it all, which only stressed me out. I also like to prioritize. I feel like when I have a list of things that need to be accomplished from most important to least I have a little bit of control over the situation. That helps me feel at ease. Great post! I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. I am also excited for more pics and videos of your sweet pup!

  16. So helpful! I’m about to graduate college and the transition into the real world has got me super stressed out. Loved your tips and need to get that iced coffee maker, looks so cool!


    Amy | Pastel N Pink

  17. We got a pup a few months ago and we still have quite a few early mornings because Cooper likes to wake us up at 4 am for some ungodly reason. These are great tips for dealing with transitions.

  18. Your puppy is so cute! I love all the tips you gave to deal with a major transition! I’m currently going through a career transition and it’s been so stressful and hard. I need to take some of these tips and use them!

  19. I can completely relate to this because it takes a lot of time for me to adapt to change and I have anxiety too. I feel you in regards to how dog can help with anxiety! All your points are so correct. In my case, it’s particularly difficult to let go of the guilt.. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

  20. As soon as I saw “puppy reveal”, I knew I had to take a look!!! I agree that Brooklyn is more of a girl’s name…he is so cute.

  21. Great post!!!! I remember having to give my 7 year old shi tzu to my MIL because he started snapping at my daughter once she learned to crawl. It was so hard at first, but I knew he was being well cared for. After being married for 10 years and having three daughters, change is my middle name. ? You gave some awesome tips on how to cope. One thing that always helps me is to take a little me time away from it all to just breath.

    1. Awe, that sounds heartbreaking. Haha I do think change gets easier as you get older (at least I hope); especially with kids! IT seems like you need to be okay with it to keep your sanity 😉

  22. So cute! I definitely understand that guilt! But, I definitely agree that letting that go and starting fresh is a good thing to clear your mind. And, for you, it sounds like Charlie is so happy with his new owners! So, you deserve to be happy, too! 🙂 Happy Tuesday!

    xo, chelsea catherine |

  23. all of these are such amazing tips. the “be present” one resonates with me a lot lately. social media and blogging takes too much of my “free time” attention. making a conscious effort to be more intentional with my time.

  24. your pup is a cutie but i question anyone that likes beyonce over wu-tang. i know change is always lurking but i fight it with every ounce of strength i can summon and laughed out loud reading the quote at the top of your post ‘everything i’ve ever let go of has claw marks’–so true! enjoy getting settled in your new place!!

  25. Congratulations! I hope you will stop beating yourself up over Charlie, because is sounds like you made the best decision for him. Tucker is adorable, and if you ever want any advice on puppy raising, I have a lot of resources I can share with you. It is so important to take care of yourself during transition, and a little indulgence is definitely in order. I’ve always wondered how to make ice coffee, while I don’t drink coffee, I always buy Dunkin Donuts coffee to have for our guests. They seem to love it.

    1. Yeah, I definitely have let it go, it still just makes me sad since I miss him. But I am obsessed with Tucker and feel like he was MADE for me! Right now, he is doing really well on the training front, but he does get nippy when he is excited, so we keep saying no, giving him a chew toy, and saying good boy to teach him – should we be doing something else?

  26. Just look at that adorable puppy. Who couldn’t smile or have a good day when you have such a loving fur baby at home. Enjoy your coffee.

  27. I definitely agree with all these tips! Making a schedule and planning has always really helped me during major life changes. If I have everything laid out and organized, I feel a lot more confident. So sorry about Charlie, but I’m sure he loves his new family. Plus, you were doing what was right for him in the end, even if it was super tough!

  28. Love this! My life has seemed like one big life transition over the past year from graduating college to moving to Boston to getting married and I really needed to hear the let go of guilt tip! It can be hard living so far away from my family.

    Also your new puppy is amazing, I’m hoping one is our near future 🙂

  29. First your new puppy is so adorable! Secondly, I can totally relate to this article. I’ve never been good at dealing with change whether good or bad. I’ve gotten a bit better with age but change is such a hard thing to go through. I think your tips are truly helpful. I’m going to keep them in mind as I am going through a transitional time in my life right now as well. Hopefully your tips will help lessen my stress as in comparison to previous times of change. Thanks so much!

  30. Congrats on the new fur baby! He is such a cutie. Crate training/transitional times with pets can be hard and stressful but my dog does wonders for my anxiety. Hope things even out soon!

    Greta |

  31. What a cute little fur baby you got! Life transitions are really hard for me. I mean… change is hard for everyone but I do take a lot of self-care time so I can reflect and close those chapters of my life and head on to the next 🙂

  32. Omg, I am so sorry that you had such a sad time with your pup and your dad. That story broke my heart. But I’m so glad that you finally felt ready to welcome a new dog into your life. It’s totally an adjustment, but (I’m hugging my dog as I write this) when you find the dog that’s meant to be yours, everything just falls into place. <3

  33. Great tips and cute pup! Our puppy is not doing well in his crate so if you make a post on puppy training, let me know!

  34. Your new pup is so cute! I remember getting our dog when she was a puppy – it was pretty rough until she was finally crate trained and whatnot. But it gets better! Now she’s almost an angel haha. But I love this post – definitely feeling like I’m in a perpetual state of transition since I graduated from grad school, so I needed this!

  35. OMG your dog is so freaking adorable!! Getting a dog was SO hard for me. I was a new mom (11 years ago) and I remember the sleepless nights….with a puppy!!!

  36. Kristine Circenis

    Tucker is so freaking cute and I’m glad he’s been bringing both you and E much happiness!! I’m currently looking for my first job so that huge life change is rocking my boat, to say the least. What’s been getting me through it is your first tip, indulge. Last night I wanted Chinese food because my brain was exhausted from crying, figuring out my next move which is… I have no idea.

  37. These are all really great tips! [Also, the pup is ADORABLE!] I really appreciate your tip on asking for help. It can be tough to be vulnerable enough to ask for help, but man, it can really make a HUGE difference.

  38. ABsolutely love this post, Rachel! Congrats on your new addition, Tucker is such a cutie and I am so glad he makes you happy (albeit the loss of sleep)! My bf and I just adopted a dog a couple months ago and it has definitely been a transition in our house as well (we have an alpha male cat so you can only imagine, haha!). Coffee definitely helps to keep the energy up around those two 😛

  39. Omg what a SWEET BOY!!!! Tucker is soooo cute! Our transition with Shadow was a little rough at first just because he required so much care, but I think you just have to take it day by day!!!

    1. Haha thank you!!! Yeah, it’s not just the pup – its more the move with no furniture haha but it’s all coming together day by day just like you said 🙂

  40. I love this. I love posts that make you feel good when you read them! And your boy is the cutest!!

  41. I absolutely loved this post. I deal with a lot of anxiety and I tend to deal with a lot of worry and guilt over things that are out of my control. It definitely makes such a difference to focus on the things that make you feel at peace and both coffee and my pets are that for me.

    La Belle Sirene

  42. Victoria Stacey

    HE IS SO CUTE! Also, your tips on life transitioning are KEY! Thanks 😀

  43. Rachel — I’m so blown away by this post. Thank you for sharing about your first dog and that touch situation. I am so sorry about the loss of your father and really inspired by how you shared about the variety of transitions you’ve been though in this post, as well as how to deal with them.

    I’m currently in a big transition — I just moved halfway across the world to live with my boyfriend in the Netherlands. I miss my friends and family every day, and sometimes I “mess up” on something I try really hard on and it can be so hard to give myself grace, so I really appreciated your emphasis on asking for help and on making schedules. The regularity of some things in my life is really helpful when so much of it feels up in the air.

    Thank you for sharing. I really love this blog post and I think your blog is truly stand-out in quality and authenticity.

    1. Awe thank you so much for your kind words Sara! Legit, you have no idea how much I needed to hear that last sentence RN <3 – That's such a big adjustment! Out of curiosity, how did you and your boyfriend meet?

    2. My family is originally from the Netherlands and we moved to the States when I was a kid. I met Ken when, for my gap year, I spent a few months here in the Netherlands with my aunt and uncle. He’s my cousin’s best friend! We actually used to be in the same fourth grade class. (:

  44. Thank you for sharing your story and how you deal with anxiety! Major life transitions are huge anxiety factors, so it’s good to have a schedule (and lots of coffee!) on hand. I’m so excited because my town is getting a Publix soon!

  45. Thank you so much for being so open and honest in this post!! I loved it so much I subscribed to your email list!! Like you, I struggle with anxiety (although I have better control over it now – yay!) and transitions can be very overwhelming, stressful, and not fun. Even when I feel like I *should* be having fun with certain transitions (ie: house hunting), it’s still hard sometimes! It’s nice to read this post and feel like I’m not alone in these feelings!!

    Ps – Your pup is adorable! Yay for being a dog mom again 🙂 🙂 My pup had done wonders for my anxiety!!

    – Kaitlin

  46. I think you need to mention dunkin donuts coffee a few hundred more times. Other than that, you had a couple helpful points. But when stress is an unwanted thing? When you can’t even relax at home and your cortisol levels are maxed out and you can’t have speed (aka caffeine) to help you out?

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