Coping With the Stress of Change

Transitions can throw our lives into turmoil even when we are desperately looking for a change. Change calls on us to let go of the comfortably familiar and plunge into the unknown. The toughest thing about change is the uncertainty of not knowing what comes next. Many of us respond to the unknown with a range of emotions—stress, anger, anxiety, and grief. Acknowledging these difficult emotions can help us maneuver through change and come out the other side stronger and happier.

Letting go of the past and taking on new roles isn’t easy. Here are ways to help recognize the emotions of change and move forward with confidence into the future.


Change disrupts our normal routine and shatters the structure that gives us comfort. When disruption throws life into turmoil, we lose the reliable sense that we know what’s coming next. We can fall back on solutions that have worked for us in the past. Uncertainty produces stress, and stress prompts more doubt and worry. Break the cycle by focusing on the things you can control instead of fretting about the unknowns. Finding an anchor, even if it’s something as small as planning what you’ll eat for dinner, can reduce the level of chaos in your life.


Change can evoke anxiety even if the transition is something you want. You work hard for a promotion, only to be struck with doubt when the hard-earned job arrives. Now you wonder if you’ll be able to succeed in your new role. If you find the challenge scary, adopt a new way of thinking. Focus on the good things that will come along with new responsibilities. You’ll learn new skills and meet new people. You’ll have new authority to exercise your own judgment and influence outcomes. A positive attitude can give you the empowerment and self-assurance you need.


Sadness recognizes the value of things we lose and honors their importance in our lives. Many of us think we are supposed to get over sadness quickly, but sadness is a valid way to acknowledge loss. Don’t feel pressured to dismiss your sadness but look for ways to navigate through mourning. If you move across country and miss friends and family left behind, that’s a difficult transition. Finding ways to remember the good times can help you heal. Keep in touch with news from your hometown and reach out to old friends.


When life throws you an unfair curveball that you resent, anger is a perfectly natural reaction. How you respond to your anger is important. If you can use your anger to move forward, that’s a good thing. If your anger does you more harm than good, look for a way to get unstuck from that unhealthy place. Focus on behavior that brings you the calm and peace you need to cope with the unwanted change. Instead of complaining constantly to your best friend, find things to talk about that make you happy. Look for activities that bring joy into your life. Don’t let your anger trap you into bad feelings that never end.

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