Cultivating Calm on the Job - Learn to Relax

Have you had a time at work where you lost your cool?

Maybe a difficult client wasn’t happy no matter what you did, a coworker didn’t pull their weight on a project or you were unfairly criticized by a higher up. Most of us have been there at one time or another. Something happens and you can feel it start, your heart begins to pound, you clench your jaw, and you ball your hands into fists like you are preparing for a fight. You feel a lot like the Incredible Hulk, ready to yell, throw stuff around and smash things. Are you a radioactive super hero? Not likely. The feelings are most likely your body’s fight or flight response. Meant to protect us, sometimes the tense immediacy of these feelings can get in the way of productive handling of conflicts. Most of us understand that yelling, tantrums, verbal assaults and meltdowns don’t solve interpersonal problems but in the heat of the moment, logic can take a back seat to anger, irritation and defensiveness. This can leave us vulnerable to overreacting, alienating our coworkers and supervisors and even risk losing a job. When you feel the ‘mean green’ coming on, how can you cool down, stay calm and handle the issue in a way that isn’t inappropriate, unfair to others or bad for yourself long term?

1. Breathe

Take a few deep breathes and yes, even counting to ten. Doing this may calm you down and buy you some time to check your reaction before you open your mouth. Feelings come and feelings go and there isn't a great deal you can do to control the feeling itself but you can control your reaction.

2. Vent to someone who cares

Maybe it is your partner, friend or a friendly (and tight lipped) coworker but sometimes just telling someone what your upset about and getting a little feedback and support can go a long way in relieving the frustration or anger you are feeling. Sometimes a situation needs real attention and sometimes we just need to move on. When problems come up that really have no solution it can still help to know that someone understands.

3. Take five

If things begin to get too intense, sometimes it can be best take a time out and remove yourself from the situation. Even if it is just for a few minutes, go for a short walk, clear your head, get a coffee and take some time to think about how best to handle the situation.

4. When someone pushes your buttons, don’t push back

This one is tough because truthfully some people just know how to say things in a way that gets under your skin. It's wise to remember that the best way to stop "button-pushers" is to stop pushing back. Some people want to argue or start problems and if you refuse to take the bait, they have to fish elsewhere.

5. Hash it out the right way

If you need to take action to resolve the problem, do it right. Be direct and ready to listen. Let the person you are angry with know that you see their point of view but this is how you see the situation and tell them how you think it should be worked out. The goal should not be about being "right" or making someone else look or feel bad. It should be about creating in the other person, a willingness to help come up with a solution.

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