Coping with change

Explore how you can navigate change to help you accept and adapt to changes that are outside of your control.

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Change is one of the few things you can count on in life and at work – and it’s a common source of stress for many people. Even subtle changes can impact our sense of control and familiarity.

When there’s change or uncertainty at work, it’s normal to feel a degree of fear or anxiety. If we’re also stressed for any other reason, our resistance to change can be intense. When we resist change we can’t control, there can be a negative impact on our well-being, relationships and ability to cope. 

We can all learn to better anticipate, adapt to and accept change. We can also learn to alter our situation and avoid unnecessary stress. 

While every change will be different in terms of both its impact and how you respond to it, try the following strategies to help you manage most changes with less stress.


Anticipate, expect and prepare for constant change in your life. The rate of change has been accelerating over the past 70 years and we expect this trend will continue. You’re less likely to be stressed by the idea of change if you recognize that how and where you work, and the technology and equipment you use, will constantly change.  

Over the course of your working life, you’ll likely experience changes like:

  • Role or job transitions, including promotions
  • Organizational restructuring
  • New leadership or bosses 
  • New equipment, technology or tools
  • Revised systems or processes
  • Turnover, terminations or layoffs
  • New co-workers or customers
  • Relocation of workspace

Anticipating these changes can reduce shock and discomfort when they do occur. Building your resilience, or your ability to cope with challenges and changes, is the best way to prepare yourself to deal with whatever life throws at you. For a deeper dive into resilience, complete the Plan for resilience


Accept the changes you can’t control. These can include changes at work that aren’t optional. When we resist change, it’s often because of fear. 

Fear can trigger resistance to change. 

When we’re stressed, it’s easy to get stuck in negative thinking. In fact, humans are “hard-wired” to look for potential threats so we can keep ourselves safe. This can lead to a negativity bias that narrows our focus to looking for problems instead of solutions. This is especially true when faced with uncertainty or change that’s outside of our control.

We may fear that when it comes to change:

  • The change won’t work
  • We won’t be successful at the change
  • It’ll be uncomfortable or take extra work
  • We’ll have to give up something we enjoy or are good at

But when the change is outside of your control or required as part of your job, you can learn to face your fears and adapt to most changes. In the rare instance where the change is likely to cause harm to yourself or others, you should record your concerns and share them with those with authority.

Actively challenge any negative or fear-based thoughts. Ask yourself: 

  • What do you fear about the change?
    • Is it true? 
    • Are there facts that back up your fears?
  • What is the worst thing that can happen if you accept the change?
    • How likely is this to happen?

What can you do and what don’t you have control over in the situation?

Make a list with two columns, and list the things you do and don’t have control over. For what’s not within your control, you can reduce your stress by accepting them. For those things within your control, review the sections on Alter and Adapt

Getting clear about the pros and cons can help you manage your fear, which makes it easier to accept the change.


In addition to accepting those changes you can’t control, you may be able to transition more easily by learning to adapt your internal thought processes – or how you think about the change. Here are some ways you can adapt to change: 

  • After you’ve addressed any valid fears and concerns, keep your focus on making the best of the situation :
    • Look for the good that might result from the change 
    • Identify any career or learning opportunities 
    • Consider any improvements to your current situation 
    • Explore the possibility of new goals or priorities      
  • Request more frequent check-ins
  • Seek clarity on how your role might change
  • Ask questions and confirm any details you are uncertain about
  • Set new goals and objectives
  • Find humour in the situation
  • Maintain realistic expectations of yourself while adapting to the change
  • Reframe your concerns as a desired solution. Rather than thinking “This is very difficult” you might think “I need to find a way to do this more easily”
  • Identify training that may help you get work done more efficiently  

It’s beneficial to learn to adapt and respond to all situations. We can improve the quality of our lives by facing our fears – even those beyond our control – and try to make the best of each situation.  


By altering your situation, you may be able to reduce or eliminate the stress around the changes. 

  • Consider whether a change in equipment, workspace or routine could help
  • Identify ways to reduce distractions or conflicting demands during the time of change
  • Identify any resources or supports you may need during periods of transition
  • Ask for the help of a mentor 
    • Consider contacting someone who’s been through the change you’re being asked to experience. A colleague, mentor or someone outside of your workplace who’s adopted a similar change can give you advice or support. 
    • It can also be helpful to find out what supports your benefits or employee assistance program offers. Many extended benefits programs include career counselling, coaching and other supports that can help you navigate change.

When we stop resisting an inevitable change, we have the energy and focus to consider ways to make it easier to incorporate the change.


Change can be stressful. It’s important to minimize other stressors when you’re faced with significant change. Try to maintain your existing routines and improve your self-care during times of transition. 

Do your best to:

  • Keep your physical activity the same
  • Choose nutrition that gives you energy
  • Keep overtime at work to a minimum and take all of your breaks
  • Practice good sleep habits
  •  Avoid significant changes in your personal life, if possible
  • Continue or add in activities that you enjoy
  • Avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs 

If you’re struggling with your mental health, contact a healthcare professional like a family doctor, therapist or counsellor.

Share this webpage with anyone dealing with multiple or difficult stressors.

Additional resources

Helping employees to manage change. Any organizational change can have an unsettling impact on employees. You can help through thoughtful planning, effective communication, and engaging employees in exploring how changes can be handled in a psychologically safe way.

Managing stress. Learn how to manage your reactions to stress and protect your well-being.

Requesting accommodation. Employees can use this information to request a plan or accommodation to address their workplace issues. This process helps the employee and manager determine what's needed for success at work.

Resilience. A tool to help you bounce back after a health, personal or work crisis. This resource helps you develop healthy coping strategies to deal with life's challenges.

Contributors include.articlesAlex Kollo Coaching and ToolsMary Ann Baynton

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