Book Review of

Overwhelmed: Coping with Life’s Ups and Downs

by Nancy K. Schlossberg

Transitions (or life changes) are part of life – like it or not. Some are good, others are not. Whether good or bad, transitions are stressful because they “shake up the box” that was your former life. Many of life’s changes (transitions) are derived from the normal process of: growing up, going to school, leaving home, getting a job, changing jobs, getting married, having children, retiring, and facing illness and death. The author describes most of these developmental transitions in the book, along with those that are initiated by us (to get out of a bad situation) or come at us out of the blue (like an accident, natural disaster, illness, death of a spouse, etc.).

We do not live in a vacuum either. The transitions that our loved ones and friends and associates go through also affect us as well. Quite simply, without transitions, we’re not alive! The question is, how do we cope with those transitions? Do we curl up and wither away, or do we face our transitions with resolve to make our lives better and thrive?  Schlossberg helps us explore these questions, and provides an easy-to-read owner’s manual for coping with transitions.

Schlossberg structures her book around the following sections:

Approaching Change.

First you have to define and examine your transition, and you have to notice what your perspective is. Are you a “the glass is half empty” or a “the glass is half full?” kind of person? She describes the wide variety of transitions that people experience during the course of their lifetimes, including those we choose, and those that are forced upon us. She also mentions non-events – those transitions that don’t happen, which can be just as life-changing as those that do. She asks you to examine your own life’s transitions, which leads into the second section: Taking Stock. In this section the author asks the reader to look at his or her situation – what is the situation surrounding the transition, in a larger context of one’s previous experiences, the timing, the ability to plan for such a transition, and just how permanent the transition – as well as how it will affect the rest of one’s life. The next step is to look inward at one’s self, and one’s support system. And finally, to examine and develop strategies to cope with the transition and to come out on the positive side of it.

The next section, Taking Stock, delves into developing specific action plans to weather the storm of transition, to deal with those non-event transitions positively, and to deal with work/life transitions, including balancing work and family pressures.

The final section, Taking Charge, includes a Transition Guide and Questionnaire to help the reader put everything together and to move forward in a positive direction. The author’s afterword just about sums it up: Make the Most with What You Have!

The good thing about this book is that it covers just about every major kind of life’s transition, it gives great case histories, provides targeted, simple to complete exercises, and takes an overall positive tone to give the reader hope, instead of keeping him or her overwhelmed – which leads (often) to inaction and depression.

If you are currently going through a transition, pick up this book and read it. Even if you aren’t currently going through a transition, this book might help you deal with the next transition that is sure to come up during your life, so read it ahead of time so that you can be better prepared, and find a new, more positive way of looking at life’s ups and downs!



By Eve Visconti