Planning for the Challenge
A PCS can disrupt important relationships. This change can be challenging because of the emotions that come with it.
Why do transitions create such strong feelings?
We all have a physical immune system that protects us from illness. Some things can weaken our immune system, like not getting enough sleep. That makes us more likely to get sick.
We have an emotional immune system too. When it is strong, we have more positive emotions, feel more in control of ourselves, and adapt to situations easier. When it gets weak, our emotions get more intense, we act without thinking, and sometimes we feel out of control.
When something weakens our emotional immune system, we call it an emotional vulnerability.18 Change, uncertainty, loss, and feeling out of control are all emotional vulnerabilities. Sometimes a PCS has all of those at once!
It’s OK if you have feelings like sadness, confusion, or anger.
When we feel these intense emotions, we can react in different ways. Common responses include:
- Shutting down. Wanting to withdraw.
- Feeling combative. Getting into fights or acting irritable.
- Avoiding and denying. Acting like nothing is changing, or it doesn’t matter.
- People pleasing. Focusing on making everyone else feel better while ignoring our stress.
While these are normal ways to react, they can hurt relationships. They all leave us isolated in different ways. They can also sour our goodbyes to people.
The good news is, we can plan for these emotional vulnerabilities and reactions so they don’t drive our actions.
Collect Positive Moments
Positive experiences reduce our emotional vulnerability.18 Aim for at least one enjoyable activity a day. Focus on what you’re doing and fully engage in it. Try to let go of future worries.
You can combine this skill with important relationships. Try to have a fun time with people you care about.
Prepare for the Best
Often when we think about the future, we imagine the worst-case scenario. This is especially true if we’re feeling anxious or upset. Unfortunately, this negative view actually makes our emotions worse!
Instead, you want to imagine a stressful situation and then imagine yourself acting the best possible way.
Why? When we think about the future, we are rehearsing our response to it. If you focus on the worst possible outcome, you train yourself to respond in the worst way. No one can predict the future, but we can practice how we want to respond, whatever happens.
It is also important to plan for future relationships:
- Do you feel afraid to connect with new friends because it hurts too much to say goodbye?
- What are some ways you cope with your fear?
- What are some ways you are not afraid to connect with new people?
You can learn more about coping with difficult feelings here.
We can also reduce our emotional vulnerability by doing things that make us feel confident. Finishing difficult tasks helps boost confidence.
In other words, it’s important to take action:
- Inform your friends and romantic partner of the upcoming move as soon as possible
- Involve your partner or friend, because they may be feeling similar emotions. It is often helpful to share, experience, and process these feelings together
- Discuss what your relationship may look like moving forward. Express what you want, and accept it may not be the same for each of you
- If you want to stay in contact, take steps now. Start a group text, schedule a regular video chat time, start a multiplayer video game together, whatever helps you feel connected