You strive to be a better person and live a fulfilled life. Whether it be yoga, green tea, baking or jumping out of airplanes, you look for things that bring you a sense of well being and invest time and energy into pursuing those activities. But here’s the rub. Typically, you need money to do those fun things. And unless you’re independently wealthy, that usually means you have a job, not necessarily one you like, but one you spend many hours at each week.
Typically you start a workday with the best of intentions. You get up early and spend time aligning yourself and setting the tone for the day. You enter your workplace ready to nod your head and mummer Namaste to all you encounter. You are in control and life is wonderful. But within minutes, things begin to go astray. Calls start coming in, emails stack up and suddenly everyone you encounter seems to be possessed by a whirling dervish of negative energy or has that desperate look in their eye that makes you want to remove anything sharp from their work area.
You try to maintain your composure, but then it gets a little more personal. Your boss reprimands you for something out of your control, a co-worker makes a snide remark about one of your close friends, or a customer calls you a jerk after you won’t let them return a clearly 100-year-old pair of jeans with no tags or receipt. And then it happens. In an instant, your alignment takes a U-turn and every peaceful feeling you had evaporates. As the anger builds, you’d like to take Namaste and cram it down someone’s throat just to shut them up.
Don’t worry … we’ve all been there and it’s not a happy place to be. But as crazy as things may get at your job, it doesn’t mean you have to spiral out of control. There ARE things you can do when you feel that frustration building and your well being slipping away. So before all that workplace drama gets the better of you, try out these six simple ideas to help you maintain your equilibrium in the midst of a chaotic work day.
- Wait – If you’re anything like me, sarcastic remarks live silently on the edge of your tongue, just waiting for a good reason to burst forth from your mouth. While they may seem exceptionally witty for the briefest moment, they typically transform into something cringe worthy shortly thereafter and may even require soul sucking groveling in order to make things right. So remember, when something has spiked your anger or hurt your feelings, just wait it out. Wait until the initial rush of frustration has passed, until you are breathing normally once again, until you can see that responding to negativity with negativity will accomplish nothing at all. This doesn’t mean you have to stew in silence forever. Just wait until your response can be clearheaded and logical. It will be received better in the long run and will alleviate a lot of added stress that comes from a response generated in the heat of the moment.
- Throw out the bathwater, keep the baby – Most people are funny this way. We tend to go from all to nothing in our minds in a very short period of time. One bad remark and suddenly everyone is your enemy. You begin to doubt your core beliefs and soon you’re berating yourself for ever thinking peace of mind was anything more than a fantasy. The trick is to try and interrupt those thoughts before they spiral out of control. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that there are plenty of people in your work place that you like and respect. Seek them out, not necessarily to spill your guts about what happened, but just to feel a real person-to-person connection. Ask them about their dog or how the plans for their daughter’s wedding are proceeding. By reconnecting in this way, you’ll remind yourself that the people you work with are more than just co-workers. Just like you, they have lives that matter outside the workplace and are doing the best they can.
- Make your nose happy – Our sense of smell is an amazing gift that most people pay little attention to. Ask any realtor who suggests you bake cookies just before showing your house. They know that certain aromas invoke pleasant memories, which increases your odds of getting an offer from a potential buyer. And this idea is even backed by science. It’s been proven that emotional trauma is stored in the amygdala gland within the brain and this gland can only be stimulated through our sense of smell. So giving your nose a workout during a difficult workday can truly help calm your fears and reset your emotional state. Essential oils are an excellent way to accomplish this. Natural calming scents include lavender, chamomile, orange and frankincense, but any scent you enjoy will do the trick. Just uncap the bottle, take several deep breathes, and notice the tranquil feeling that washes over you.
- Think about your nemesis in a different way – This is especially helpful when dealing with people who are in a position of power and enjoy making others feel inferior. You know the ones, the guy who struts down the hall and frowns any time he sees someone away from their work station or the woman in her perfect outfit who likes to cut people to shreds in meetings. They throw their weight around, bully others and typically don’t listen very well either. You can’t change them, but you can try and change how you perceive them. So the next time those types of co-workers are getting the better of you, take a moment and imagine them doing normal everyday things. Picture them getting caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella, eating chicken wings with their hands or even going to the bathroom. Yep, even those people have to pee and poop like the rest of us. What you’re trying to do here is to remind yourself they are just like every other human being on this planet, no better or worse (well maybe a little worse) than you. And once you’re able to do this successfully, you take away a lot of their power, much like exposing the real wizard behind the curtain. They may still be jerks, but at least they won’t be as scary anymore.
- A picture paints a thousand words – This is similar to suggestion #3, but uses another one of your amazing senses. Choose a picture that symbolizes happiness to you and have it on hand at your workplace. It may be the ocean, a sunrise, your cat, or your coffee maker. It doesn’t matter as long as the first thing you want to do is sigh deeply when you see it. In times of stress, take a moment to really focus on the image before you. This serves two purposes. First, the image alone will invoke feelings of peace and well being, which will help slow your heart rate and refocus your attention. Second, it will remind you that work is just a part of your life and does not define you. The image you’re looking at is still out there, ever constant and just waiting for you after your shift is done.
- Tickle your funny bone – We all know that laughing relieves tension and that a good one liner can diffuse a spiraling encounter. This can be used at the workplace as well. Whether you’re into corny jokes that start with ‘a rooster walked into a bar’ or slapstick comedy or off-the-cuff dry humor, keep access to something that makes you smile and engage it when work is getting the best of you. Have some quips or clips stored in an easily assessed place on your phone, keep a book of riddles in your desk drawer or have dial-a-joke on speed dial. Whatever works for you. You cannot be chuckling and furious at the same time, so choose funny and watch as the anger slips away.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these simple tips to help get you through a bad day at work. You’ve probably noticed that all these ideas are really coping mechanisms, not solutions. If you are really suffering at work and find it difficult to get through even a single workday, I would suggest you explore ideas on how to permanently change your situation. There are tons of guides, books and blogs that offer great suggestions on how to initiate and follow through on such a plan. But since something like that may take time, please keep these tips in mind until that day comes.Good luck and have a fantastic day at work tomorrow!