How Not To Be A Hot Mess During Big Life Transitions

Whether you’re moving to a new state, starting a new job, entering post-grad life, or ending things with a significant other, (in my case it’s a combination of all four) prepare for your body to need some extra attention. Transition, good and bad, minor and major, interrupts our emotional and physical state. Unlike those who take on transition with optimism and energy, there are many of us who are both excited and unbelievably overwhelmed, forcing us to revert to a hermit-like state of living. Although this is not a negative thing, today’s media has found a way to emphasize the lifestyle of the twenty-something, unable to cope with their current state, as someone who binge watches Netflix in between over-drinking and stuffing our face with pizza. Yes I’ve been there, but media showcases it as a lifestyle rather than a periodic indulgence.

This new lifestyle can be called “The Mess” (see “Bridesmaids,” “Trainwreck,” “30 Rock”) and is looked at as both funny, relatable, (at times) feminist, and refreshing. Although I can relate to “The Mess” I also believe it can be damaging. It creates an overall assumption that those of us who are not dating, are between jobs, finding ourselves, etc. all revert to this state of being. Of course it’s OK to be a mess, but few of us would choose to maintain messiness as our full time lifestyle. There are parts of my life that are messy, for example: my inability to quit smoking, my incredibly beneficial talent of over-sharing, and my generous way of pushing all those kind souls around me out of my life. But that doesn’t make me a full-blown mess who drinks to cope and overeats to feel emotionally full. So when in doubt, when transition has occurred and my messy behaviors are heightened, I revert to these six activities to promote calm energy and good vibes.

  1. Netflix: Even though I just bashed it for supporting “The Mess” persona, it’s actually a great tool for alleviating panic attacks, feelings of loneliness, and the overall emotional overload of change. Plus, at least for me, with change comes a lack of concentration. Activities like reading and writing become more strenuous and difficult and end up influencing panic attacks. In two weeks I’ve gone through “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” the last two seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy,” and finally started “Dollhouse” and “Orange Is The New Black.”
  2. Walking: Sometimes transition affects sleep and our overall ability to relax. Figure out how to exhaust the shit out of yourself because no sleep will negatively impact the way you process transition. It’s about 3.5 miles between work and home for me and although it seemed too far at first, it’s actually just the right amount for me to clear my head before going home to watch Netflix.
  3. Tourism: If you’re moving to a new city, embrace the idea of being new in town and check out all of the things a tourist might check out during a visit. Tourism can help in a variety of ways: feeling established, alleviating stress, and it’s a solid distraction. Tourism can be checking out all of the local bookshops, seeing a movie in an old theater, visiting museums, or exploring a park. Lucky for me, Los Angeles is a massively sprawling city with too many things to do and too many movies to see. When I start to feel a panic attack boil up, I instantly head outside to walk around my neighborhood and see what it has to offer. This way I don’t feel as claustrophobic as transition sometimes makes me feel.
  4. Food Schedule: If you’ve struggled with eating, or fall under the category of those who forget to eat when overwhelmed or busy, put yourself on a food schedule. Particularly because you’re body needs sustenance to process the change, and food will actually help your brain relax. More often than not, I forget to eat or I find that I’m never hungry when I’m going through change. It’s as though my hunger cues hibernate until I’m settled, which could be between one week to a year. I make sure to buy all sorts of frozen meals at Trader Joe’s and I stock my pantry and work desk with snacks galore. Quick and easy is helpful for those of us who are lazy and forgetful about food. Establishing some sort of routine will help you feel more grounded in your new environment.
  5. Distractions: I know the other suggestions listed are distractions, but if your mind is swirling sometimes it’s helpful to have a set of mini distractions. Mini distractions are activities like doing your nails, cleaning, organizing drawers, baking, making cards for friends, or researching new music. Now’s the time to get into an activity you’ve been meaning to do. Now’s the time to start crossing movies-to-watch or books-to-read off your list. I find that these mini-distractions are most useful on weekends when you have the entire day to yourself.
  6. Sleep: There isn’t much to explain here other than the fact that sleep helps clear your mind making transitions a lot more easy to deal with and adjust to. Last Saturday I slept in, took two naps, and still went to bed by 10p.m. For the first time ever I actually felt well-rested for the work-week ahead.

Our bodies like routine, and any change can alter our moods and overall well-being. It’s important to allow ourselves to promote self-care as we enter into new jobs, experience post-grad life, end relationships, and move to new states. Simply because some transitions are positive does not necessarily equate to easy adjustments. Being a mess is perfectly acceptable, but it’s not the only way to cope. Transitions are a time to be hyper aware of our well-being and make sure we act on our needs.

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