For several years in college I worked as a behavioral therapist for children on the Autism Spectrum. Transitions were often challenging for a lot of my students and we’d play games that helped develop coping skills to ease transition times. Transition times were often categorized by a time one activity needed to end in order for another to begin. For example, needing to come in from the backyard in order to eat dinner. Or needing to turn off the TV to go take a bath. Or bedtime. BEDTIME. Any parent knows that transitioning to bedtime can turn into a mind-battle more complex than the average game of chess. It is tough to transition to darkness.
I’m almost thirty-years-old and it wasn’t until yesterday (seriously guys, 24hrs ago) that it struck me that I too struggle with transitions. And I always have.
How about you? Do you notice your anxiety alway increasing at the end of summer breaks as the school year nears? Did you ever have to start a new job? Start a new school? Go on a first date? I can imagine your anxiety sky-rocketed during those moments since I know mine sure as hell did.
For some reason I never made the connection between my anxiety and these transitions. Sure, I blamed it on all the “changes” going on, oh man I’m so busy and tired and stresssseedd ouutt, but I never once analyzed what defined those changes. In every one of them I was required to stop a certain routine and begin another. My daily routine was being disrupted, which triggered anxiety and fear.
Take a look at your own feelings toward transition times. Think about the way your anxiety is affected by transitions (even if it seems as innocuous as having someone change the time of a planned hangout).
If, like me, you can notice a pattern of anxiety-build up during times of transition, you should keep an eye out. Try to be aware of how this might affect your approach to dating. Dating, and getting to know someone new, is a huge transition. Going from your daily routine of being single to not only having to think about someone else, but thinking about how someone else is thinking about you?? This basically disrupts your entire life. Plus, there’s only so much you can control about your routine when it comes to dating another person. Your usual routine, and the comfort you feel from this familiarity, gets thrown out the window.
Is this something that could be holding you back from pursuing a romantic relationship? If you think it might be, remember you are more adaptable than you probably think. You’ve learned new routines throughout your life (recall a time you started a new job or a new school) and are capable of doing it again. You have the skills to transition to a new routine.
You may not enjoy transitions and you may even try your best to avoid them, but if you want to enter the dating world transitions are unavoidable. If I learned anything during my time as a behavior therapist it’s that anyone can learn how to go on a date (or put on a pair of pajamas) if they remember the steps they need to take to get there.
Identify how your body feels when you are approaching a transition. Familiarize yourself with the thoughts and situations that trigger your anxiety and start developing helpful coping strategies. For example, if you know your muscles will become tense and fatigued during a transition time start taking warm, relaxing baths. Be sure to set aside time for exercise or meditation.
You have the ability to prepare for a transition and take back control of how your anxiety affects that transition. It may have taken me almost thirty years, but I’m finally acknowledging that maybe I don’t like being told I have to stop playing to come inside for dinner.