Each year as winter approaches I feel my not so welcome friend, anxiety, creep into my life. It is not that I dislike winter; in fact, I really enjoy it once I become acclimated. However, it is the transition from summer to fall to winter that leaves me with that uncomfortable feeling; the one where I know things will be different very soon but the magnitude of the change is always unexpected. This year in particular my anxiety about the impending cold, snow driving, short days, and long nights appeared more present. It is possible that the summer sun shined so bright that I forgot the influence seasonal changes have on me. Whatever the reason, transitions in life are jarring, big or small, anticipated or not.
It is not that I want my anxiety around winter to disappear; after all it serves an important purpose of bringing awareness to the change that is happening (as if I could ignore it if I tried). Through this awareness we can begin to accept that change is happening and build skills that help manage life’s transitions in a healthy way. Expected or unexpected, as humans we share the experience of sadness, anxiety, joy, and uncertainty in the face of change. Embracing that the only constant is change takes adaptability on our part. Sometimes resisting it is all we know to do, denying that life as we know it is changing; however, healing and growth only begin to occur when we are empowered to adapt, grow, and gain tools to manage life’s many transitions.
Whether it be a change in season, gaining or losing a relationship, job changes, loss, family or life events, transitions rarely come without at least a little anxiety, fear, discomfort, and stress. The unknown is scary and for me, anxiety is the manifestation of changes in my life. Even though winter comes every year, as expected, I still find myself experiencing the same feelings. Whatever the transition, predictable or unpredictable, the common thread seems to be fear and uncertainty of what comes next.
Can we just wake up and become adaptable? For me it has been a continual process of evolving. One that has been painful at times, sets me off balance time and again, but with each transition comes a challenge and each challenge leads to growth. Until we are able to explore the struggles, get support to manage what is happening, and have a tool box full of healthy coping skills we will continue our old patterns. The fear, pain, and sadness we often experience with the anxiety created by transitions has the potential to led to joy and peace. As with the changing seasons we have to adapt, change is a part of life. We have to add layers to keep us warm in the face of life’s chill, build internal strength to believe we can handle it, and have courage to know the sun will shine again and we will be better prepared when it does.