Man­age your emo­tions at work Here’s how men­tally strong peo­ple do it

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Success - By Amy Morin Amy Morin is s a psy­chother­a­pist, a lec­turer at North­east­ern Uni­ver­sity and the au­thor of “13 Things Men­tally Strong Peo­ple Don’t Do.”

A fa­ther came into my ther­apy of­fice with his son and told me: “He’s so strong. He hasn’t even cried once since his grand­mother passed away.”

Like many peo­ple, this fa­ther had bought into mis­con­cep­tions about men­tal strength. He thought be­ing strong was the same thing as act­ing tough.

Be­ing men­tally strong isn’t about sti­fling your emo­tions and ig­nor­ing your pain. Af­ter all, it takes strength to al­low your­self to feel sad, anx­ious and scared.

You don’t want to stay stuck in a place of pain, how­ever. It’s im­por­tant to be able to shift your emo­tions when they aren’t serv­ing you well. Here are five ways men­tally strong peo­ple man­age their emo­tions at work:

1. They sched­ule time to worry

Whether you’re a nat­u­ral wor­rier who’s con­cerned about ev­ery­thing or there’s some­thing spe­cific that you can’t seem to get off your mind, all of those “what if...” ques­tions can con­sume your men­tal en­ergy. What if some­thing goes wrong? What if I end up broke?

One of the best ways to man­age your anx­ious thoughts is to sched­ule time to worry. It sounds ab­surd, but stud­ies show it ac­tu­ally works.

Set aside 20 min­utes a day to worry and put it in your sched­ule. Then, when your worrying time rolls around, worry up a storm. When your time is over, go back to do­ing some­thing else.

The goal is to con­tain your worrying to a spe­cific por­tion of the day, so it isn’t all-con­sum­ing and doesn’t dis­tract you from your job. With prac­tice, you’ll be able to spend your day fo­cus­ing on the task right in front of you, rather than ru­mi­nate about what hap­pened yes­ter­day or worry about what might hap­pen to­mor­row.

2. They la­bel their emo­tions

Your emo­tions af­fect how you per­ceive events and how you de­cide to take ac­tion. When you’re anx­ious about some­thing, even some­thing com­pletely un­re­lated to your cur­rent work task, you’ll likely avoid risks.

When you’re sad, you’re more likely to agree to a bad deal (never ne­go­ti­ate when you’re sad).

When you’re ex­cited, you’ll over­look the chal­lenges you’re likely to face.

De­spite the ma­jor in­flu­ence of emo­tions, most peo­ple spend very lit­tle time think­ing about their feel­ings. In fact, most adults strug­gle to name their feel­ings.

But la­bel­ing your feel­ings is key to mak­ing the best de­ci­sions. When you un­der­stand how you’re feel­ing and how those feel­ings might cloud your judg­ment, you can make bet­ter choices.

3. They de­ter­mine whether their feel­ings are a friend or an en­emy

Emo­tions aren’t ei­ther pos­i­tive or neg­a­tive. All emo­tions can be help­ful at times and harm­ful at oth­ers.

Sad­ness is help­ful when it re­minds you to honor some­thing or some­one you lost. But it can be harm­ful if it keeps you from get­ting out of bed and tack­ling your day.

Anger is help­ful when it gives you en­ergy to take a stand for a cause you be­lieve in. It can be harm­ful if it en­cour­ages you to do or say things that hurt co-work­ers.

So af­ter you la­bel your feel­ings, take a minute to iden­tify whether that emo­tion is a friend or an en­emy to you right now. If it’s help­ful, al­low your­self to em­brace that feel­ing fully. If not, change how you feel by ei­ther chang­ing the way you think (or what you’re think­ing about) or how you’re be­hav­ing.

4. They en­gage in mood boost­ers

Be­hav­ing con­trary to the way you feel can shift your emo­tional state. For ex­am­ple, smil­ing can evoke feel­ings of hap­pi­ness when you’re feel­ing down. Or tak­ing a few slow deep breaths can calm you when you’re feel­ing anx­ious.

It’s im­por­tant to have a few ac­tiv­i­ties in mind for boost­ing your mood on a bad day. The eas­i­est way to do that is by cre­at­ing a list of things you en­joy do­ing when you’re in a good mood, like go­ing for a walk, lis­ten­ing to up­beat mu­sic or hav­ing cof­fee with a co-worker you find pleas­ant.

Then, when you’re in a bad mood (and your emo­tions aren’t your friend), en­gage in a mood booster. Chang­ing your be­hav­ior can shift your in­ter­nal state and help you to feel hap­pier.

5. They em­brace dis­com­fort

Ask your­self, “What emo­tion is most un­com­fort­able?” For one per­son, it might be em­bar­rass­ment. For an­other, it might be anx­i­ety.

You likely go to great lengths to avoid the emo­tion you find least tol­er­a­ble. Per­haps you don’t try for a pro­mo­tion be­cause you think you can’t han­dle re­jec­tion. Or maybe you pass up an in­vi­ta­tion to give a speech at a con­fer­ence be­cause you loathe pub­lic speak­ing.

Many peo­ple go through life work­ing re­ally hard to avoid dis­com­fort. Iron­i­cally, how­ever, they end up feel­ing un­com­fort­able al­most all the time be­cause they’re wast­ing all their en­ergy run­ning away from things that may cause dis­com­fort.

Em­brace a lit­tle bit of dis­com­fort. If you ex­pose your­self to un­com­fort­able feel­ings (as long as you do it in a healthy way), you can gain con­fi­dence in your abil­ity to tol­er­ate dis­tress.

In ad­di­tion to cre­at­ing healthy habits that will build men­tal mus­cle, it’s im­por­tant to give up the bad habits that are rob­bing you of the men­tal strength you need to be your best.


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