Life transitions are stressful for everyone, and even adjusting to positive changes can cause stress. For some people, the stress of change can be enough to induce mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. In some cases, the symptoms of mental illness become evident around significant changes in life. For example, in adolescence, major changes may include starting school, transitioning to middle school, or increasing high school demands.
For young adults, transitioning to a college environment can be challenging, and college students are especially vulnerable to mental health problems. In adulthood, life changes include starting a new job, marriage and divorce, the loss of friends and family members, aging, and retirement. According to the National Institutes of Health, stressful life changes are generally more prevalent among older adults.
Working from home, unemployment, school closures, and social distancing under COVID-19 have forced many people to make significant lifestyle changes. Adjusting to substantial changes and coping with the fear of contracting the virus are challenging for everyone, and can be especially difficult for individuals with mental disorders. It’s essential to pay attention to your mental health during life transitions and reach out for help.
01 Life Transitions Effects on Mental Health
While “life transitions” is not a clinical diagnosis itself, troubles adjusting to the transitions and changes can lead to diagnosable mental health conditions, including:
02 Life Transitions: Examples of Scenarios That May Affect Mental Health
Both children and adults may be diagnosed with a mental health disorder after transitions such as:
The birth of a child
Adjustment disorders might be diagnosed in someone who becomes more distressed by a change than they might have expected, especially if this stress gets in the way of their relationships, jobs, or schoolwork for months after the transition has resolved.
03 Indications of Trouble Adjusting To A Life Transition
Difficulties adjusting to a life transition may cause symptoms similar to those during other stressful experiences.
These may include:
Frequent colds and infections
Significant decrease of sex drive
Either loss of appetite, or increased appetite
Feeling generally overwhelmed
More anxiety than usual
Tendency to socially isolate one’s self
When faced with a life transition, it can be helpful to learn self-care techniques to better manage the resulting stress.
These techniques include:
Mindfulness and meditation: In the midst of a transition, take time to observe your thoughts and learn a breathing routine that can calm you when stress sets in.
Leaning on your support network: Asking for help from those who have supported you in the past can be helpful through new challenges.
Therapy: Find a therapist who can help you navigate your transition with proven tools and techniques.
And, as always, be sure during a new period to be easy on yourself: drink plenty of water and eat well, get enough sleep each night, and find time for exercise.