Caterpillar or Butterfly? Navigating Transitions

Transitions are an inevitable part of life… particularly in the Navy.   We may have joined the Navy in part for the opportunity to see new places and do new things.  But, as Captain Richard Rahe, USN, discovered as he helped develop the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale back in 1967, changes (even good ones) cause stress.  Remember your or your family member’s first months in the Navy?  Even though it was a new opportunity and presented maybe a new beginning for better things in life, it was still a challenge and probably stressful

Small transitions may include changes of command or supervisor.  Bigger transitions include Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves and return from deployment. One of the most significant transitions may be that of separation or retirement from service. Transitions require us to adapt to new circumstances and at the same time may interfere with our usual strategies for navigating stress.   Sometimes we leave friends and those people we have come to trust, old routines of exercise and relaxation are interrupted, and some of the support mechanisms that gave us confidence when we faced day to day challenges (kid’s pediatrician, the honest mechanic, etc.) are no longer available.

Change always presents new opportunities when we are prepared to take them.  On a practical note, the Fleet and Family Service Center and the Veterans Administration offer programs to help prepare us for moves, separation and retirement.  Many families who attend remark afterward that they wish they had taken advantage of these classes and services even sooner.   In the midst of transition, make an extra effort to reduce stress for you and your loved ones by hanging on to some routines, taking time to relax, and tackling transition tasks “one bite at a time.”  Make every effort to stay in contact with family and friends.  If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, worrying about all the changes in front of you, try to stop and “be in the present” by focusing on the sensations (sights, sounds, smells, etc.) around you and then on the task at hand.

Transitions can be stressful, but also a time for new beginnings.  Learn how to make the most of yours.

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”  Richard Bach

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