Keeping Your Cool at Work

“Losing your head in a crisis is a good way to become the crisis.”
― C.J. Redwine, Defiance

It can happen to anyone. A stressful week, problems at home, the guy who cut you off in traffic, the holiday rush – it can easily add up and make your nerves a little frayed. All it takes is a careless remark, one stupid mistake or missed deadline, and you lose it.  You say something you regret, and you hurt some feelings.

Hopefully, no bridge gets burned. But no one wants to gain a reputation for being hot-headed, and you can wind up spending a lot of time on repairing relationships and regret. Here are some tips to help you hang on to your cool.

First, it helps to have a regular sounding board to help you relieve stress when it starts to build up. You might have a friend at work you can trust when you feel the need to complain, whine, or just let off steam. Trust is the key word here – you need to know that your confidante has your back and that nothing you say gets passed on to others. If you’re not sure that’s the case, choose a friend from your personal life who’s a good listener.

If you find you need to vent often, you may wear out your welcome, no matter how caring your work friend is. Be sure to read the room when you ask for time; she may be too busy or too stressed herself to take on your complaints too. Are you allowing her to vent when she needs it? If your conversations only go one way, stress relief isn’t your biggest problem. Be sure you’re not becoming someone who takes and never gives.  By the way, it’s possible that hearing that you’re not the only one with problems may even put yours in perspective.

When you feel your temper rising in the heat of the moment, it helps to put some space between you and the stressor. Walk away. Close your office door and squeeze the heck out of your stress ball (if you don’t have one, buy one.) Take a break. Take a walk around the block. Breathe deeply and count to 100. Then go back and deal with the issue.

Maybe a mantra will help. Having a calming phrase you can run on repeat in stressful situations may keep you present without letting the anger take over. You have space between whatever is happening and how you choose to react, and choosing a calming phrase my help steer you toward a better reaction. Here are some ideas.

“This is just one moment. I won’t let it ruin the whole day.”

“I am bigger than this. I am in control here.”

“I have a choice as to how I react here.”

“How do I want to feel about this moment tomorrow?”

Remember that regular physical activity can help you feel better overall and manage stress more effectively. A daily walk or workout, yoga, or kickboxing (depending on your physical fitness or rage level) can help keep you from ever getting to the point where you’re unable to control your temper. Getting enough rest and hydration will also help. I know, I know. Fitness and self-care advice – guaranteed to solve all your problems. Sorry, not sorry. It helps.

Keeping your cool can be challenging in the moment, but taking some or all of these steps in advance can make it less likely you’ll have to rely on your last nerve. Maybe you’ll even develop a reputation as calm, cool, and collected.

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