The world of work can sometimes feel like a petri dish for the unexpected. Have you ever lost a client, gotten a bad review from your supervisor, or had the budget for your department slashed? Even if we've never been handed a pink slip or told we had to relocate halfway across the country if we wanted to keep our jobs, for most of us it's a given that one workday or another we'll be presented with something we didn't plan for, something unpleasant.
It's human nature to react to unexpected situations negatively, but the stress and worry from our negative reactions can be overwhelming. If we want to keep our focus at work, we need ways to tame negativity. Furthermore, if problems persist, we may experience long periods of emotional suffering, sleepless nights, and lack of creativity. With our minds so bogged down, we may focus on everything that is not happening and have a hard time figuring out how to make things better.
While most of us would never go to work without preparing for a presentation or a meeting, emotional preparation for work tends to get short shrift. Even if we wanted to be emotionally prepared for work, knowing how is hard. So how can we prepare for unknown events that throw us off course and compound stress and worry? Here are four ways to prepare emotionally for unexpected turns--and to counter the stress and anxiety that come with them.
1. Gratitude. In the morning when you wake up, before your mind starts going through everything you must do that day, stop and remind yourself of all the people and things for which you are grateful. Even if you are not the type of person to keep lists, making a gratitude list before you get out of bed can help maintain a good perspective throughout the day. The perspective you gain will give you deeper understanding of what is really important throughout your workday, and hopefully you will be less affected by unexpected events. You will be able to relax more into your day and make the best of whatever you are facing.
2. Maybe statements. Remember the mantra of Maybe throughout the day. Sometimes when we get upset it is because we believe that we are stuck in a pattern and things are not going our way. We forget that life will always change again. Remind yourself that as bad as things may look or feel, there is always the possibility that Maybe what is happening will turn out to be good, Maybe you will figure out how to make the situation better, or Maybe you can accept this unexpected event and everything will still be OK. Thoughts of Maybe will allow you to return to the present more peacefully and have hope for the future. Tailor a variety of Maybe statements to your situation--"Maybe this new boss will turn out to be a blessing" or "Maybe having to go part time will free me up to pursue a second career"--and see which ones help you feel less stuck and more at ease. Then make a habit of remembering to keep them close at hand so you'll be prepared when trouble arises.
3. Awareness. Sometimes we don't even realize that we have become negative and stressed at work until hours or even days later. Creating awareness of when and how our emotions become low or negative is an ongoing practice that can help us identify opportunities for positive change. If you keep a daily journal at work it will become clearer to you over time when your emotions tend to dip.
4. Joy reminders. Try to make a point to fill your day with little things that give you joy. Sometimes this is as simple as making yourself a cup of tea or maybe making time for a conversation with a friend or relative. Try to spread these little joys throughout the day to remind you of the feeling of joy and steer you toward emotional balance.
Keeping such daily practices doesn't mean we will never feel sad, negative, or stressed at work. It merely stops us from dwelling too long in negative thoughts about the little and sometimes bigger mishaps that occur during the workday. It helps us keep a larger perspective on what is really important, as well as all that is still possible in our lives. The more aware we become of the things that throw us off course, the less we will allow daily experiences to outweigh our inner joy and ability to be successful.
Try to remember each day that no matter what you are facing, the next moment can bring something new--and Maybe better than you could have possibly expected!