Two very common – and very frightening things that happen to us every day at work. Like you, I’ve read lots of advice over the years about what to do about the stress (eat less, exercise, get a good night’s sleep…), and what to do when we feel we’re losing control (count to 10, of course!). But I’ve also found that advice somewhat lacking. The first does nothing to deal with the situation in the moment – though admittedly it’s great in the long run. The second doesn’t tell you what to do after you’ve done the counting…and doesn’t always work as you stand there, counting. So, here are a couple of ideas that have worked well for me.
The first thing is to be aware of your own reactions (“hot buttons”) and act quickly when you sense you’re getting really stressed or about to be out of control of your emotions. When that happens at work (or pretty much anywhere else)
1. Go to the restroom (yes, I’m serious!) Just excuse yourself and go.
2. Go into a stall, close and lock the door, and sit down.
3. Close your eyes.
4. Put your thumbs in your ears.
5. Put one index finger on the side of each nostril, and close off your nose.
6. Breathe deeply and slowly through your mouth as you count to 10…or 100, whatever you need.
You’ll feel your body relax, your heart slow down, and your stress level decrease. You’ll be in control. I know it sounds strange, and feels awkward, but no one is watching you, and it REALLY works. You’re addressing the right brain, the emotional part of you, the physical part of stress.
Then, as you return to work much more relaxed and in control, the issue that created the stress is probably still there, waiting for you. Here are some tips:
1. Assume positive intent: whatever the other person did that grated on you was probably done with good intentions. Look to addressing the problem, not beating on the person.
2. Look at what you can control, and work on that. Don’t obsess about what “they” did. You only control what you do, not what anyone else does.
3. Consider what one thing, however small, you could do that would improve the situation (sitting down and making a list? writting a well-considered e-mail outlining the issue? letting it go since you can’t affect it?) Then figure out the first step, and do it. One reason we get stressed is because we feel like victims, out of control. So, take small steps to regain control (starting with that trip to the restroom). Don’t worry – ACT!
Let us know if you have other great tips for dealing with stress at work and that out-of-control feeling. ~ Daphne Schneider