Tips for Transition Sanity {The Grove: Change}

Habit is a crazy thing.

Our electricity is out. As I am talking to Sam about the problem, I walk into the next room and switch the light “on”. Though I know there is no electricity, walking into that room initiates an automated turning on of the light. Habit, in defiance of reality.

Habits, those unconscious patterns moving us through our day, anchor us into rhythms. Habits’ fierce protection of the status quo establish routines, freeing up our limited mental energy for creative and critical thought.

And here lies a root of one of the challenges of transition. All those things done unconsciously now require thinking that pulls hard on your already diminished creative energy. Just when you need to be on your decision making game, there is a significant lack.

I needed coffee this morning. With no electricity, we have no way to heat water. So I had to develop a plan, considering options of sources and when they open, which in turn initiated thinking through alternate timing for my rearranged morning.

A disrupted simple task triggered a complex web of decisions for a process that was automatic the day before. Decision fatigue is real, my friends.

Wonderfully, transitions provide opportunities to recreate rhythms that are more sustainable and life-giving. But woefully, often there is not enough energy available to really think through options, so we fall into the trap of taking the path of least resistance. Which then becomes your habit and the next thing you know you are switching on nonexistent lights.

It takes time and energy to establish new rhythms of body and soul.

What to do? What to do?

First, acknowledge you are in a new season, requiring different things of you. You’ve entered the Twilight Zone. (Cue music)

The moment you made the decision that is bringing change to your life, you took your first step on a journey. The destination may still be months or miles away, but in that moment you started letting go of your current reality.

The process William and Susan Bridges call “inner repatterning and sorting” commenced and priorities, probably unconsciously, began to shift internally, causing the structure of the old patterns of your lifestyle to begin to weaken.

You realize you can’t simply add the tasks of transition on top of your current routines without feeling the weight. Eventually, something has to give. Or crash, boom, bang.

So, here are a few tips to keep you from tumbling down the rabbit hole.

  • Trade time management for energy management. Rest when you need to rest. Yes, take that nap when your to-do list becomes your enemy.
  • Create margin in your time, energy, and finances. Transition always takes more withdrawals in these three than you think it should.
  • Write stuff down. Even if you don’t normally keep lists, preserve some mental space by moving things from your head to paper.
  • Stir up holy imagination early in the process. Dream a little about ideas for new rhythms. The in-between is full of opportunity to innovate and redefine.
  • Take inventory. What is working now that you want to preserve? What will it take to transfer those habits into your new location? And what is not working that you’d like to change? What will you need to make that happen? You can always revise your plan based on what you find in your new situation, but having an intention in front of you increases the likelihood of establishing rhythms that breathe life instead of suck energy.
  • Put some decisions on hold. There are 10,001 things to figure out, but not everything has to be in place on Day One. Purposefully choose a few decisions that can wait, write a notation on your calendar when you’ll make that decision and put that one aside until then.
  • Build temporary structures that help you function. When remodeling your bedroom, you don’t need curtains and matching pillow shams. You need a place to sleep. Think through what you really need (and if you have kids, put their needs at the top of the list). Be okay with a little chaos and flexibility in other areas. Stretch your adaptation muscles.
  • Create a few quick win goals. And then celebrate those wins, big and small. Happy dance, anyone?
  • Get some godly counsel. Hire a coach. Find someone to help you process your lifestyle, work habits, soul rhythms, and provide the support, accountability, and encouragement you need to stay sane and get to a healthy place in your new situation.

Big changes always have that unknown, murky middle that feels like the wilderness between your two somewheres. It’s what Marilyn Ferguson calls the “place in between… like being between trapezes. It’s Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold on to.”

Except there is. He is the One who never changes.

You can trust Him and His work in the dark. New life is being knit together in the womb. Wings are growing in the cocoon. Seeds are germinating in the ground.

Keep your eyes wide open for ways God is shepherding you. And when we obey Him, every path He guides us on is fragrant with His lovingkindness and His truth. Psalms 25:10 (TLB) Look! He is there.

Share you best tips for staying sane in the midst of change.


This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.


  1. Adora May 11, 2017

    I love this list! Wish I’d read this exactly a year ago 🙂 In my most recent move, the “decision fatigue” was very real… I took the “crash boom bang” path and felt like I’d completely burnt out before I’d even made any changes. Fortunately, I was able to seek help – I found online counselling helpful because I was able to stay connected to one counsellor throughout the whole transition process.

    I like to have one “comfort object” throughout any change – something that I can pack easily and pull out right away, and it’ll feel a bit more like home. For the past 6 moves, it’s been my fluffy polka-dotted comforter that vacuum-packs wonderfully and warms up any bedroom!

    1. Patty Stallings May 11, 2017

      Thanks for your “comfort object” tip. A great idea!
      And thanks for sharing your experience with decision fatigue and your wise choice to seek help as you moved through the transition process. People sometimes think they don’t have the time and energy to set up an ongoing relationship with a counselor or a coach during transition. But that investment can keep you from falling off the edge of the transition cliff!

  2. Helen May 11, 2017

    It is good to know that I am not the only one who sometimes falls flat on my face, when the carpet of habit gets pulled out from beneath my feet. I developed the habit of setting up a budget very early in life, but here in China I can not budget. I am not sure what my income will be each month. I do not even know what my electricity bill will be. One thing that I have learned through this, is to trust Him. I do not know….but He does.

    1. Patty Stallings May 11, 2017

      Learning to trust Him is worth whatever it takes to get us to that place – even a face plant when the carpet gets pulled out! 🙂 I love your attitude of faith, Helen!

  3. Kim May 11, 2017

    Oh how i need to read this today! Thanks!

    1. Patty Stallings May 11, 2017

      Thanks, Kim. I needed to process through these things again myself. Blessings in your transition!

  4. Katie Rose May 11, 2017

    These tips are SUPER helpful! Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Patty Stallings May 11, 2017

      Thanks, Katie Rose. I’m glad you found them helpful. May you breathe in His fragrance!

  5. Kathy May 12, 2017

    Thanks friend! This explains a lot for me right now.

  6. Elissa May 12, 2017

    I’m amazed at how much energy it takes just looking for my toothbrush while in a new place. This is a very true article. Thanks for writing it!
    Semi-related: I read about Mindfulness on the BBC news yesterday and had two thoughts. 1. I’m already a noticer of the little things, of course I stop to smell the roses! 2. Mindfulness is too much of an energy soaker- I remembered our summer of transition from the US to Germany and how bone-weary I was of having to be mindful of almost every single thing. We’re getting ready for our first home assignment year (under two months to go) and I’m dreading the thousand decisions just around the corner. I’ll try to think of them as opportunities instead of hard change.

    1. Patty Stallings May 12, 2017

      Thanks, Elissa, for your comment. So very true that the simplest of tasks can take inordinate amounts of time and energy! May each moment of your transition be bathed with grace – especially as you stop to smell the fragrance of His lovingkindness!

  7. Grace L May 13, 2017

    Our biggest challenge when dealing with change comes when we are taking a yearly home leave. It usually involves moving around from place to place, state to state, new house to new house. It was driving me crazy to wonder which suitcase I had put things into and whether I had it with us or had temporarily stored it someplace before returning to the field. This may sound crazy, but I set up an Excel spreadsheet and created a sheet for each suitcase, plus what we were leaving or storing someplace. It’s a bit detaily to do it at the time, but later, when I wonder where something is later, I can easily check it out. Two years ago, I thought I had lost my bathing suit and keep looking through my semi-unpacked suitcases. Only when I arrived at my cousin’s house a few weeks later, did I discover that I had put it in a box that I had sent on to her. Sigh… that started me on my tracking everything in Excel. Crazy, yes a bit. But it does keep me from going crazy as we travel from place to place and we are out of our routines.

    1. Patty Stallings May 13, 2017

      Brilliant, Grace! I can so relate to trying to remember what was stored and which suitcase things are in.

  8. sarah May 13, 2017

    Thanks for these tips! Very helpful. I find the first one especially true, and yet surprising every time. 🙂
    I always have “coffee mug” at the top of my list of things to buy when I move to a new place. For some reason, it feels essential to me to have something right off that bat that I know I’ll be using every day for as long as I’m in that place. In some special way, a coffee mug integrates for me the long-term, bc yes, coffee will always be a part of my life, and my commitment to the new place the Lord has brought me, and in choosing which mug to take home, I’m choosing how to express myself in the new place. And, even tho it represents all those deep things, it’s actually a very small and manageable decision that makes me feel good in the midst of staring into bigger, scarier decisions.

    1. Patty Stallings May 13, 2017

      I love this idea, Sarah, on so many levels and all the huge things this “small win” represents for you. Thanks for sharing with us!

  9. Ellie May 13, 2017

    Hi We’re nine months in to a long-term transition back to the UK and I was just thinking today that I’m still exhausted and some of it is that I still don’t have the routine that I crave. Great thinking shared as always Patty, thank you.

    1. Patty Stallings May 13, 2017

      Thanks, Ellie, for your kind words. I have found it sometimes takes awhile to just decompress before you have energy to establish routines. I’m praying for you right now that your path forward will become clearer and your rhythms will bring you life and rest!

  10. Anna in Africa May 14, 2017

    One of the most helpful lessons I’ve learned in my translations is to keep in mind, “In order to arrive we’ll, you need to leave well.” Having this idea helps me set goals which help me walk through the mental blocks and lack-of-energy times because I’d made a plan before those came. It also helps me take best care of my family before those mental blocks come and guard us from fatigue.
    This is my post where I describe Saying Goodbye as a process.

    1. Patty Stallings May 20, 2017

      Anna, thank you for this reminder and for sharing your blog link, fleshing this out. So glad you are part of this community!

  11. Patty Stallings May 20, 2017

    I want to capture this Facebook comment from my wise friend, Gayle:
    “One of the definitions for the Old Testament term ruach (used for Spirit, breath, wind, air) is space. The Holy Spirit is in the spaces, filling them up, holding the space. The space of waiting for the blanket to get out of the dryer, the space between the trapeze swings, the space of us not knowing.”

  12. Tara Cornacchione April 26, 2019

    Patti, your thoughts here are so insightful. These last two weeks I’ve had to use my non-dominant hand to do practically everything following a minor surgery on my right (dominant hand). Having to think through every minor task and change nearly every approach to tasks has been exhausting and very apparent. Having had that simple new revelation, along with finding this post tonight has allowed me to recognize why this past year or so of “missions leadership” transition has been extra exhausting for myself and my husband. It’s not always the to do’s and the unexpected but the having to change the manner in which we process, and act upon all these new responsibilities and life changes. I’m so grateful to have happened upon your website!

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