Adapting to transition is an ongoing process

Q: Due to a change in my health and physical capabilities, I moved to assisted living away from close friends. I’m not happy about this new situation. I feel lost and alone.

A: Starting a new phase of life can be stressful. I understand and empathize. Coping with changes big or small, planned or unplanned, takes adjustment time.

At first, we yearn for the ‘way our life was before’. We pine for friends and identifiable faces. There’s a sense of security, safety and confidence with recognizable routines. Then, after a disruption to the well-known, we feel like we’re living outside of that circle of familiarity.

Transitions can be thrilling, distressing or celebratory milestones. Transitions occur in everyday activities or adjustment to a new environment. Examples include: cannot afford expenses and forced to move out of home; death; accident; divorce; retirement; adult child moving in; health setback or new chronic illness; relocation to a different city

Change, stress and strategies

Generally speaking, there are four categories in transitional change: Loss of a role (family/work); loss of a person; loss of place; loss of where you previously fit in.

When change occurs, it often brings on stress, which is challenging even if positive.

To ease transition, prepare a plan, logistical moves, or detailed strategy; develop reasonable expectations; create routines for consistency; set small goals; find social support; practice self-compassion.

Helpful coping mechanisms

- visual cue (printed action plan)

- photos of new environment, if moving (helps reference the new physical location)

- consider what you enjoy doing, then look for connections to match those activities

- making new friends can be scary, but once you find one person you have commonalities with, it can get easier

- consider if you are more comfortable in larger social gatherings or small groups, then look for activities to match your preference 

- ask staff members to introduce you to others that enjoy the same types of interests (music, sports, games, physical movement, crafts, woodworking, TV, movies, books, lectures, etc.).

What’s next?

Resilience is about preparing for and learning from adversity. You may feel anxious when life is disrupted. Adjusting to a new way of living can make us feel unprepared. While any life transition can be positive or negative, planned or unexpected, try not to dismiss how you are feeling about life’s changes, but rather acknowledge how you are feeling at that moment. Then, fully “feel” those emotions – sadness, trepidation, jealousy, loneliness, overwhelm, etc. – and think of the appropriate coping mechanism for that situation. What can help me move forward? How can I feel better next time I am emotionally in the same space again? Who can I reach out to that could help me through how I am feeling right now?

The transition of uncertainty is temporary, and it is okay to feel out of sorts. Be patient with yourself and allow for flexibility on days you are struggling. By practicing positive imagery and forward-looking actions, you are taking small incremental steps toward adjustment of your new health condition and environment.

Karen Casanovas is a healthy aging coach in Alaska helping individuals or families collaborate, find resources and design a plan for thriving and living well whether age 35, 50 or 90. Contact her through her website at