From education to employment

Transitions in education and how to work with change

Transitions in education and how to work with change

For some people, change is not an easy thing to do.

And with students starting to prepare for the next stage of their education – whether that’s moving to high school, college, university, or starting an apprenticeship – it can often be an anxious time contemplating a move from the familiar to the unfamiliar.

Mental health counsellor, Sheila McMahon, Reg. BACP, FSP, Comedienne, and CEO of Mind Management For You, has put together the following advice to help students and parents to manage the transition.

Working with change

The last year and a half has been a time of transitions for most people. Most people have had to adapt in some way due to the pandemic. For some people, change is not an easy thing to do. A lot of people have struggled with how much this change has been out of their control. The pandemic highlights that we cannot take our lives for granted and expect that it will always be the same.

However, we can learn to work with change. We can control how we see it. We can work with our mental health while managing transitions.

We can learn that its ok not to be ok, to accept not being ok rather than to fight it. We can allow ourselves to just do as much as we can. We can accept that we are not a robots, we are human and will be affected by experiences.

Working as a mental health counsellor, whether it’s difficulties with change, anxiety or other mental health conditions, I have seen time and time again that,

‘The more you fight it – the bigger it gets’.

To work with change, we need to learn how to accept it. We can learn to accept it by changing the way we see it. Often times when something tragic happens – at that time it can feel like the end of the world. Sometimes, over time, it can feel like a blessing in disguise. I have seen many times, when the rug is pulled from under someone’s feet, whether it be the loss of a job, relationship, after a period of mourning over the loss, it has prompted them to do something about it. Often times in hindsight they can look back on a tragic time and see the positives they can take from it.

Some people are still traumatised from what has happened over the last year and half so please be aware that everyone’s process will be different.

Giving ourselves time

We can give ourselves time to process what has happened since the start of the pandemic. When we bottle all that emotion, sadness and frustration inside – where does it go? Mostly in our stomachs, heads, shoulders and then it can manifest itself into symptoms like IBS, headaches and other physical conditions.

Pace of life

In general, I have heard how people were unhappy with their pace of life before the pandemic. Most people were feeling like they were on a hamster wheel going round in circles. For some people Covid 19 made then get off the hamster wheel and for some that has been a positive. I really encourage you to think about your pace of live and whether you are happy or unhappy with it?

Taking responsibility

I love Einstein’s definition of insanity …

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”.

This is your life! You were born into a society that has expectations; however you get to decide what expectations you are happy with and the ones that don’t serve you well. You get the decide your expectations for you or maybe you might decide to have no expectations – whatever works for you.

Time out from screens

Ever get distracted by your phone, computer or TV when hours have gone past, and you wonder – where has that time gone? With so much in our society around screens it might be useful to ask yourself

Am I addicted to technology?

You were not born addicted to your phone, so it is learnt behaviour. You can try an experiment to see if you can turn off your phone for a period of time – not put it on silent…just in case! Actually, turn off your phone – can you do it? I can share with you that most people cannot. If this is you and you want to make changes, then I encourage you to start very slowly by turning off your phone and switching it back on again. Then to prolong the length of time it is switched off at a length of time that suits you. You can then see if this starts to become helpful as you learn to switch off from technology. If this is not helpful then try not to give yourself a hard time and remember ..

Everyone is different in what’s helpful and unhelpful for them.

Switching off

Watch out for limiting thoughts that prevent you from switching off. ‘What if I miss out on anything’. ‘What if there is an emergency’? Expecting yourself to be ‘Switched on’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week can be unhealthy for your mental health. We can underestimate the value of allowing ourselves to take time to do nothing!!! This reminds me of the quote;

‘If I say I am doing nothing, that does not mean I am available – I am doing nothing’.

Doing nothing allows us to switch off and recharge our batteries! We can switch off by trying things like mindfulness and meditation.

On a lighter note, this morning I saw a neighbour talking to her dog. It was obvious she thought her dog understood her. I came into my house and told my cat… we had a good laugh.

Suicidal thoughts

On a more serious note, I have noticed more people struggling with suicidal thoughts. Change can be very scarry for some people as they can get so comfortable in what they have known that they can feel like they can’t change or that they won’t be able too. This can lead to someone feeling like a burden and suicidal thoughts. If this is you, then I really encourage you to speak to your GP, a Counsellor, a Samaritan on 116 123 or someone you trust. This can be a dark time for many, and we need to look out and support one another. If you find it difficult to know what to say to someone who is feeling suicidal then you can watch part 6 of my free online show on Suicide on Sheila’s YouTube channel.

Grounding technique

So many of us are feeling a mixture of so many emotions. It can help to ground ourselves. Here is a grounding/mindfulness technique that you might find useful called ‘54321’.

Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste – for No. 1 in this technique, I like to have a piece of chocolate!

Embracing change

When it comes to change, I find the serenity prayer/ mantra very helpful to remind me to focus on what I can control.

‘Universe/ God/ Life (Whatever relates to you) Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference’.

Or this version too…

‘Grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, courage to change the one I can and the wisdom to know it’s me’.

For now, let us learn to work with change, have a laugh and live in the moment.

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