To Everything There is a Season. Sync with your Own Calendar and be Awesome.

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By Dr. Allison Belger

Labor Day Weekend is upon us.  This marks the time of year when kids go back to school and summer makes its exit, taking with it plans, hopes and dreams. Gone are the days of beach romances and summer novels, family reunions and vacation escapes.  Marshmallows, campfires, and the joy of leisurely evenings unfettered by homework –or work—recede into memory and longing as September looms large.  Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are inundated with photographs of cute kids, backpacks secured, heading back to school as proud parents watch.  Transition is in the air.

Even if you aren’t a kid and don’t have a kid at home, there’s something nostalgic and consuming about the back-to-school rhythm that seems to overtake our culture this time of year. Marking the end of a season that moves from light, frivolous pursuits into more weighty directions, September can affect us all in unexpected and subtle ways.

Transitions are part of development and growth.  Beginning with our movement from the womb to the outside world–likely the most aggressive and unrefined transition of all–we are repeatedly challenged to move from one mode of functioning into another, ready or not.  Each move shakes up our status quo and our sense of the world around us, and each requires a significant amount of cognitive and psychological restructuring. Preschool, with its freedom and emphasis on play, somehow turns into kindergarten with pre-academics and the rigidity of having to sit cross-legged on carpet squares.  Suddenly, it seems we are in middle school with hours of homework, tests and measures, and an after-school schedule that requires a spreadsheet and a small army to sustain.   College is another dimension: who is ever ready for all THAT when the time comes?

Of course there are plenty of upsides to transitions.  Typically, movement from one phase to the next marks a new level of independence and access to the world.  We become more able to do things on our own and more trusted for our capabilities. Becoming a teenager, for example, may mean that we have more homework, awkward physical changes and internal confusion, but it also means more freedom—attending unsupervised movies, using our own smart phone, choosing our clothes, getting a driver’s license.

Transitions in adulthood can be exciting, providing us with new opportunities such as a job promotion  or relocation, or becoming a parent.  There is significant promise with this new phase, even while one is fearful and unsure about navigating the next steps.   Becoming a homeowner, graduating from law school, starting a business—these are all transitions marked by progress and promise.  Still, each requires us to leave behind the comfort and familiarity of what went before.

Some transitions may be negative and inherently difficult.  Death of a loved one, loss of a job, end of a relationship—all are unwelcomed transitions that force us to reckon with our emotions as we try to find stability after the pain.  Anxiety and depression often accompany significant life changes, especially when these changes are imposed upon us.  We may call upon some primal blueprint from early childhood, drawing upon patterns from the past in dealing with adversity–with varying degrees of success.  Our strategies around transitions are affected by how successfully our caregivers helped us through pivotal transitions early on.  Being aware of these different strategies can be helpful; understanding our own patterns and their roots is often a first step toward recovery and progress.

While transition and new beginnings are in the air, you may find that you’re not ready to start over or make changes. Maybe you’re just getting used to a new apartment, new workout routine, or job you landed a month ago, and you’re rather annoyed that the world seems to expect a fresh start with summer ending.  Or maybe you’re courageously grieving a recent transition (divorce, job loss), and you know you’re not quite ready to jump into something new.  Our own timelines don’t always jive with the energy of the world around us, and it can be downright maddening when we are struggling to hold fast to a sense of stability and routine.   Give yourself permission to stick with your own timeline and resist the winds of change. Stay your course and ignore the frenzy.

On the other hand, if you are ready for change, scary as it might be, go with the September winds, hoist your sail and run with it.  Set some goals, create a plan, and be prepared to leave something behind as you move into a new way of being.  If you are training for a sport and you feel stagnant or unmotivated, do something about it.  Maybe you need to shake up an old routine or find a new group of training partners–or a new coach. Maybe it’s time to transition from being a competitor in your sport to someone who participates for health and fitness–and for the pure fun of it.   (see previous article on knowing when to take a break).  These times of transition can provide opportunities for self-reflection and taking stock, leading to forward movement and positive outcomes.  If you’re ready, go for it for real and with confidence.  Don’t let the promise of crisp new school supplies fade to notebooks with frayed edges without making something of the opportunity.  Time will fly, and the moment so filled potential might quickly become a thing of the past if you don’t commit fully.

Whether you’re ready for a change or settling in to a routine, be sure to enjoy these fleeting days of summer this holiday weekend!  Then, you can get down to the business of being awesome—either at your old routine or while creating a new one.

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