With Bec Robbins  


3 Types of Self Care To Thrive Through Life Transitions

Life transitions call for different types of self care

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If you are struggling through a big life change right now, learning different types of self care can help. The end of a relationship, a cross country move, a career shift; life is full of transitions. Changes of a larger magnitude are known to be the greatest causes of stress. And our natural survival instinct is to focus on the negatives, adding even more stress to a time of transition.

Navigating these periods are challenging because of their intensity and uncertaintyHow we deal with life transitions is largely habitual; learned from our parents or other influences. Most of us are messy with change, unless we have intentionally explored how to cope up in this area.

Change unfolds around us every day, every second. Whether it is dealing with change at work, with health, even with the weather: life is change. We’re not too shabby at handling the daily mundane shifts. It’s those defining life transitions that get us feeling down, the ones that change many other things all in one blow.

Sometimes life transitions are glorious, especially if we have planned for them; a marriage, heading to college, starting a new job. Even then, navigation can require us to dig deep. Other times transitions catch us off guard. That’s when change feels hard and lonely, like our lives are unraveling. We become reactive, destructive even, when we could be thriving through transition if we had the right tools.

When my marriage failed, I was blindsided. And the hurricane of other changes that precipitated could have taken me out. Fortunately, I had a strategy up my sleeve that helped ease the way to my next chapter: self care. Practicing self care benefits us during both big transitions and small daily changes, helping to improve the quality of our lives.

What It Means To Care For Yourself

So what does self care mean for you? How do you care for yourself? Despite the obvious nature of the concept, it can still stump many people because self care can actually be a vast number of things. It’s helpful to start with a self-care definition that resonates for you. A simple starting definition of self care could be: identifying your most important needs and taking responsibility for meeting those needs consistently. 

Why is self-care important? Because we can’t depend on anyone but ourselves to get caring for us right. And when we do, we can thrive through anything. There are actually 3 types of self care to consider: physical, psychological and emotional. Each type is equally important during life transitions so it is wise to habituate at least one self care strategy for each. Some self care strategies address more than one of these types simultaneously, which can help make total self care more efficient. Let’s examine some strategies for each type.

Physical Self Care

Imagine a child is well cared for; eating nourishing meals, getting proper rest and engaging in physical activities. That child will typically be more calm, clear-headed and confident than one eating junk food all day, going to bed late and glued to a screen for hours. It’s the same for us adults.

Physical self care should be non-negotiable, because without it we have little energy or stamina for anything else. A neglected physical body leads to dysregulation of the nervous system. This increases stress, irritability and overwhelm. It also takes a toll on the immune system which leads to illness, the last thing anyone going through a transition needs.

An effective physical self care strategy to start out with is some form of regular exercise routine which includes both strengthening and cardiovascular exercise. Exercise helps with the other types of self care as well because it supports mental and emotional processes. Choose exercise you enjoy doing that is easy to build into your schedule. Exercising also has a downhill effect on other forms of physical self care. For example, exercising helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle because we get naturally tired from the exertion. We are also automatically motivated to eat healthier and more regularly to replenish ourselves.

Rest and relaxation strategies are also important physical self care strategies. Take a bath or a walk in nature, get a massage, try NSDR or yoga to help regulate the body by supporting the parasympathetic nervous system.

Psychological Self Care

Most people don’t think of self care when it comes to their mind, but this is arguably the most critical of the 3 types of self care. A cared-for mind begets healthy thoughts. Thoughts lead to emotions which lead to actions and behaviours, ultimately shaping all your life experiences. 

Psychological self care can be as simple as giving your mind time and space to rest in stillness. Meditation is an excellent starting strategy for this. It promotes mental relaxation and release from stress and anxiety. Improving your belief system is also extremely powerful, replacing negative perspectives with neutral or positive ones. For example, a belief that transitions are a threat can be actively shifted to see transitions as an exciting opportunity, an adventure or a blessing. This changes our emotions and behaviours for the better during times of change. 

Psychological self care also involves what you are feeding your mind every day. Read and watch supportive content, not mental junk food. Curate your relationships and conversations so that you are nourished by positive people, not drained by naysayers, critics and complainers.

Emotional Self Care

Emotional self care involves allowing and processing your feelings, both good and bad. When emotional energy is not processed it becomes “stuck” in the body and can lead to stress, tension and illness. Emotions must be expressed and experienced either privately or with others in order for us to be our best.

Of the 3 types of self care, this one is the most challenging because emotions can be intense and uncomfortable. Strategies like journaling or expressing through music, dance or art work for many people. Most importantly though, ask for help. One of the most rampant limiting beliefs is that we have to do it alone. Truthfully, we are not meant to do it alone. We are designed to function in a community. 

We isolate during challenging times and pretend that we are ok to avoid being judged or rejected, but this is when we need to connect with loved ones (to laugh or cry) the most. If you don’t have friends or family that you can safely share your feelings with, resources like somatic or breath work, life transitions therapy, emotional wellness coaching or a support group focused on your kind of transition are a great idea. 

Having a strong relationship with a higher power can also be game-changing for emotional self care. It can feel very scary and paralyzing to walk through change without this deeper connection. Investigate a self-study spiritual approach that is easy to digest like A Course in Miracles. If necessary define a higher power that works for you, even if you have to design one from scratch that you can fully subscribe to and trust. Then begin a consistent dialogue with that and watch your courage and confidence soar.

Unlocking The Positives of Change

It may seem counterintuitive to take time for yourself when you are in the middle of the storm of change. It may seem like there’s no time, no energy, no support to do anything other than manage the fallout 24/7. But every storm has an eye, a calm and peaceful place where you can rest and nourish. If you are not managing your own inner state and your basic health you will have very little stamina or energy to leverage the opportunity in front of you to grow and become a better version of yourself. Personal evolution can be the ultimate positive of change, and the importance of self care is undeniable for achieving this.

Take (even a little) time for stillness, reflection and exercise. Make sure you are properly hydrated and nourished by nutrient-rich, whole foods. Stay on top of positive thinking and feeling your feelings. Ask for help as much as you can. Follow your own self care basics and you will have what it takes each day to thrive through your transition. Because self care alters you biochemically to experience and perceive change as something exciting, new and positive. This shift in perspective is sure to preserve your health, your relationships and your sanity, plus you may actually be able to enjoy the novelty and adventure of it all.

The bigger your dreams, the bigger the transitions that will come alongside them. That’s because those transitions are necessary for upgrading you to become who you need to be to step into your dreams. So no shying away from change! Use the benefits of self care to lean in and navigate transition with ease and confidence and you will be able to reach your desires much more quickly and joyfully.

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