University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

Self-Care: The Best Remedy for Managing Change

How Change Impacts Us

Change – it's everywhere. We can't run from it, deny it, or pretend it's not happening. Nor, can we hide from it. Well, we could, but we do have a life to live. So, what can we do? In our workplaces, it's easy to say: “Change is inevitable – get used to it!” This may be true, but not too helpful. Another response might be: “If you don't like it, leave!” This again is not helpful. Change affects each person differently. For some, it's exhilarating; they love anything new and different. For others, change is painful, but they move on. And for others, change may be devastating and recovery can take time.

The impact of change and our reaction to it depends on the situation, the magnitude of the change, and what type of change is occurring (i.e., new supervisor, new space, new job duties, new equipment, coworkers transitioning). However, if personal changes (e.g., illness, family problems, aging parents, empty-nests) are happening at the same time as changes in the workplace, then the impact may be even greater.

What Can We Do?

Change can give us a feeling of losing control; a sense of loss of control over knowing what to expect each day. Most of the time, we know the “standards” – where to go, what to do, what resources are available, whom to “go to,” and how to use our skills. When change occurs and any of these standards are taken away, it upsets the flow of our lives. It requires more energy, more vigilance (what's going to happen to me?), and maybe even a new learning curve.

The way to feel back in control of a situation is usually to take action. When you don't know what actions to take or when to take them, what you have left is taking stock of what you CAN control – YOU! Oftentimes, change may be a catalyst for more change. If you have been on the fence about making a job change or taking that next step in your career, changes in your workplace may propel you to leave and move in a new career direction.

Here are some ideas for enhancing that sense of control by improving your self-care and working to create balance in your life:

  • Include a walk in your day – even it's just around the block. It gets you out of the office, keeps you physically active, and may give you a fresh perspective.
  • Play your favorite music on your way to work, and sing all the way!
  • Ask questions! Don't assume anything. If you are wondering about something, go directly to your supervisor; coworkers have their own perception about things and may not have the right information.
  • Think creatively. If it's hard to let go, consider new and fun ways to do your work. Ask a friend or coworker to brainstorm with you.
  • Vent – but, do it carefully. For example, ask a friend for his/her willingness to listen to your complaints two times a week for two to three weeks. No advice; just listening.
  • Eat chocolate! But don't go wild with it; just two squares of dark chocolate are filled with antioxidants.

Add your own ideas and share the list with others. The outcome of this activity is to help you feel like you're doing something, while also keeping a positive spin on things when they may be looking bleak. Change is happening. It will happen again, and only you can control how you will respond. Taking positive actions can be catching. Give it a try!