Transition to Transition Fatigue
As life planners, we need to understand the impact of transition on our clients. Recognizing that life events are not just a moment but a stressful change. These events, whether positive, unexpected, or negative, draining, and upsetting which leads to transition fatigue for many people.
Transition fatigue is a personal experience of depletion as a result of these major life events. The process may last months or years with individuals exhibiting a declined outlook on life, poor physical and mental health, loss of connection to other people, and/or lowered cognitive efficiency. The fatigue subsides over time as people adjust to their new situations. New routines, connections, and sources of meaning in life emerge over time.
Any period of prolonged change can bring on transition fatigue. The emotional impact on life is crucial to understand so that as a life planner, you can provide the language and understanding for coping with fatigue. This is not only for the person experiencing transition fatigue but for those around them; their family needs appreciation that these changes are to be expected, rather than a cause for panic.
As advisors, we must be aware of a client’s state of life so we can support them in important decision-making. Clients who are overwhelmed may need us to narrow the choices and point them to the next steps. Other clients will need to be told that no action is required when they frantically want to regain control by action. The key is recognizing the client’s behaviors and specific needs.
During transition fatigue, most people’s decision-making lands into one of four categories:
- Decide and Get It Done
- Deception and Hiding
- Hyper Present
These fallback behaviors are unconscious for most people. Acknowledging the struggle is the first step to creating healthy ways to effectively address them. Creating awareness helps prevent poor decision-making through going to the default behaviors. An experienced life planner offers support, knowing their client is overwhelmed.
Sam’s transition fatigue had long-lasting effects. In the middle of a contentious divorce – his urge to be finished, led him to tell his lawyer to give the house to his wife and 80% of his future income in alimony and child support until their youngest child, at the time seven, is twenty-two. The lawyer protested and tried to get Sam to be reasonable. Instead, Sam insisted, and the documents were signed. Ten years later Sam was struggling professionally and financially, with a second marriage and children he could barely support. His transition fatigue meant he could not see to the future or take good legal advice.
How do we help our clients make better decisions and avoid the irrational tradeoffs that Sam made? By recognizing the symptoms of mental depletion. The data shows mental fatigue is real and affects cognitive skills.
1. Changes to memory, attention, and decision are symptoms of transition fatigue. Even feeling scattered or inefficient is a manifestation of fatigue.
All clients will benefit from resources to assist them through this transition emotionally. One such resource, the Transition Fatigue Questionnaire (TFQ) is key to relationship building with your client and accommodating their needs.
The TFQ is designed to tangibly measure something we are aware exists. The trends we see are people resorting to a range of behaviors to cope. After the self-assessment, results are sent with tailored suggestions to make this stressful period easier.
Recommendations to combat transition fatigue include a basic healthy diet, sleep, and exercise.
By emphasizing that these are necessary for sound decision-making, we are not being medical professionals but part of necessary transition support. In addition, encouraging a pause for a week or two from the major decisions in life as the client regroups is essential.
Encouraging those with transition fatigue who are stressed or tense to relax is not a simple task in our culture of “Move on, Get it Done.” When you link these activities and modifications to better decision-making, many clients are willing to try it, especially when you point out that excessive levels of stress create tunnel vision.
Support is one of the best predictors of successfully dealing with life’s challenges which is a powerful role for the planner.
For those feeling lonely and less connected, suggest support groups, counseling, and more family time. Widows and widowers who never made financial decisions are faced with paperwork and a steep learning curve as they manage through a time of profound loss. We all understand that losing a loved one is a devastating event that causes long and lingering changes in one’s life.
Sometimes, what seems like a permanent grey set in for a client. If you have worked with them before you may pick up on this shift and suggest a mental health counselor or professional. Pointing out that other clients in similar situations have benefited from such an approach is key to getting by.
Poor choices when under duress or presented with too many decisions at once is a well-studied human behavior. For example, after being forced to sell her nursery property through eminent domain and the stress of legal negotiations on price, Amy, a business owner, was drawn to buying a similar business with the proceeds. Her default was to go to what she knew. This made sense to her, despite her nearing retirement age and moving to a different town.
Amy sought advice for managing her new wealth and how much to put down on this new business. Her life planner recognizing the symptoms of transition fatigue suggested she first work at the nursery to determine if the area and business were a good fit for her. After a year with the nursery, she felt the physical labor burden. She did not want to retire, but no longer wanted to do this work. She moved to her dream spot across the country and opened a café. She now looks at the eminent domain buy-out as a stressful time but one that turned into a blessing in the end. The key for her was hiring an advisor skilled in managing the human experience of life transition events.
Other events that trigger transition fatigue include inherited property, retirement, marriage, and divorce. Presenting your clients with the TFQ is a reminder of what they are going through is challenging. Shifting the focus to the transition timeline helps them move forward with a better understanding of moving forward appropriately and without fatigue. Most of all, the self-assessment allows for reflective time for the responder.
If a client takes the survey and wants to share the results, they will open up a new way to discuss the process they are navigating.
This questionnaire feedback will be an added tool to understanding your client and meeting them where they are in their transition process.
As professionals, we want to be prepared to spot transition fatigue. Knowing a client may need extra support dealing with life allows you to provide sound, timely advice and create a strong client relationship.
- Motor fatigue and cognitive task performance in humans - Lorist - 2002 - The Journal of Physiology - Wiley Online Library
- Decision fatigue: Effects, causes, signs, and how to combat it (medicalnewstoday.com)
Find out if you are in Transition Fatigue; Transition Fatigue Questionnaire
This anonymous survey takes most people 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Your answers are completely confidential and will not be shared with anyone. Following the completion of the survey, you will be given an option to receive an email that provides your test score along with some general guidelines on how to maintain or restore well-being during transition events.
Click the link below;