Tackling Negative Emotions at Work
We’ve had the good fortune to speak to business owners at several conferences three weeks in a row – Tennessee, Ohio, and New Mexico. And, I have to say, it’s so great to be back with people we admire and support! It’s also great to be traveling. As I write this, I’m in the air on my second flight of the day…with my mask on. I don’t mind; it’s just another example of how adaptable we are.
Over time, we have had to face a new normal, in our personal and professional lives. Even with some things slowly moving back to what we had before, we still have to adapt in so many ways. From trips and travel, to where we work, to human interaction, our way of life has altered drastically. While a normal workday can lead to stress and anxiety, we must now add in all those extra factors that can negatively impact our emotions. And that can influence how we perform in our work, engage with our team, and how we take care of our customers!
Are you or your teammates feeling anxious, angry, burned out, or overwhelmed at work? Let’s tackle some tips for how to manage these emotions and experience a more fulfilling workday.
1. Let go.
Everyone experiences negative emotions. We all move between places of mental strength (like joy, hope, drive, thankfulness, and forgiveness, etc.) to places of mental vulnerability (anxiety, fear, negativity, complacency, anger, etc.) Maybe you feel defeated because you missed an important deadline, or frustrated because your teammates are always running late, or guilty because you feel like you can’t give 100% to both work and family. These emotions are completely normal, and it’s okay to not always be okay!
When faced with these emotions, you can start by practicing acceptance. Recognize what you can control and what you can’t. You can’t control how your boss or coworkers handle situations at work. You CAN control how you react in those situations. You can’t control COVID-19. You CAN control how you adapt to the situation at hand. Work on accepting these emotions, and yourself, just as you are!
Don’t ruminate on the negativity too much. Let it fade into learnable experiences that will make you better in the long run. And remember – sometimes you might feel like a situation is unavoidable. Remember to ask yourself – is it unavoidable or just uncomfortable? You have the power to remove yourself from more negative situations than you might think!
Have you ever experienced having a great day, until someone else shares that they’re having a horrible day? That’s because negative feelings compound. This is easily recognizable when you find yourself spending time with negative people around you, but it’s also important that you recognize it when you’re the perpetrator.
To calm these negative emotions, you should try to mentally distance yourself from the situation. Research suggests that a more distanced perspective can reduce the intensity of the negative emotions you feel. Take a step back and pretend that you’re a third-party observer. By cultivating a broader perspective, you’ll often discover that the situation might not be as bad as you thought it was.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many benefits to being mindfully present, and you shouldn’t completely sit all your problems aside and never revisit the root cause or how it impacts you. Rather, be aware of the negative emption without engaging with it. Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, advises to mentally acknowledge the negative feelings and smile toward them. Then distance yourself from those emotions until you’ve had a bit of time to let the initial shock simmer. You’ll feel better prepared to deal with the situation at hand.
3. Challenge your perspective.
Finding the positive in negative situations can be a great emotion regulating strategy. You can start by challenging your perspective. Are you upset because you perceived that someone was deliberately trying to be malicious, or was that person simply expressing urgency for a desired outcome? We have all spoken words into existence then wondered if we should have taken a different approach. We’re human! It’s important to take a moment to ask yourself, “What is this person’s intent and heart for me? Do they want to harm me or help me?
When faced with a difficult situation, pause and reflect on the intent and the potential positive outcomes from that situation. For example, did you get constructive feedback on a recent presentation you gave? Rather than seeing this as criticism, recognize it as 1) a heartfelt gift someone was brave enough to give to you, and 2) an opportunity to learn how to do better next time. The more frequently you challenge yourself to find the positives, the easier it will be for your brain to start noticing them on its own.
It can be easy to fall into complaining about work. But recounting all the things that made us miserable one day doesn’t help us enjoy our workday more tomorrow. A better strategy is to address the negative feelings we have in order to make a positive impact on our futures. By trying these techniques, you’ll build your ability to regulate your emotions and better handle those tough situations.
Wishing you a week of thoughtful reflection and emotional regulation,