Emotional Rescue: Saving Yourself From A Pesky Workplace Micro-Stressor

Throughout DRIVEN’s in-depth reporting on stress in the workplace, we’ve identified and dissected three distinct stressors with detrimental impacts on career. We’ve also exposed the myth that we’re too “busy” to learn to manage our stress more effectively (Hopefully you’ve expelled that four-letter cuss word from your vocabulary, and are feeling less stressed already.) Additionally, we’ve shown you the macro half of the picture when it comes to the stress that’s embedded into corporate culture. And as you may have learned, it is within an employers’ control to acknowledge these stressors and propose the solutions.

With these fresh outlooks in our arsenals, we are now prepared to examine our career micro stressors. When doing so, it’s important to keep in mind that Individual struggles and internal battles only add to our singular stress. Self-imposed ‘bad energy’ is ubiquitous in most corporate cultures, and ironically, employees often believe that the modern, first-world challenges of working in a highly competitive culture with deadlines and pressures are unique to us. Well folks, it might help to look at the colleagues sitting right beside you. Each of us stomachs profound self-imposed stress. And once you are mindful of the three main contributors to this self-abuse, you’ll have the opportunity to manage your own challenges and cast them away.

Emotions Galore

The first, and most deeply-embedded micro stressor materializes when we fail to acknowledge and manage emotions at work…..ours, and those of our coworkers. Often we imagine workplace emotions manifesting as a woman sobbing due to overwhelm, or a man banging his fist on a desk while shouting. Reality check: These are scenes from the movies. Typical workplace emotions are the ones declared by psychologist Paul Ekman more than 40 years ago, and run the gamut from the negative to the positive. Eckman initially suggested there are six basic emotions that are universal throughout human cultures: fear, disgust, anger, surprise, happiness, and sadness. By 1999, he had expanded this list to include embarrassment, excitement, contempt, shame, pride, satisfaction, and amusement.

Managing Emotions Equals Managing Stress

Now think about these terms in relation to your work environment. Are you fearful that you won’t be able to complete everything on your to-do list? Are you disgusted and contemptuous in the face of corporate politics in your office? Are you angry due to all the unnecessary interruptions you must manage and the wasted time in meetings where the same agenda items are rehashed to no resolve, meeting after meeting?

If your answer to any of these is “Yes”, you’re not alone. I hear this all the time. But there is good news! Once you, yourself acknowledge your OWN emotions, you can take realistic steps to self-regulate. The sweet reward? Your stress level plummets in the near-term, and becomes more easily managed from there. A wise colleague of mine once mentioned that “Self-regulation is the Jedi Mindtrick of corporate America.” This statement is now branded into my brain, and is a key component of my own successes.

Getting Started

The first step in self-regulation is learning to identify your moods. To get started, check out Larry Senn’s Mood Elevator, and let it inspire you to notice your own emotions during the course of your day. By the time you’ve laid this groundwork, I’ll be back with direction on managing these emotions, and advice on how companies and individuals can create and embed a game plan into their culture to manage stress together. But first, we’ll explore the 2nd of the BIG three micro stressors in current corporate culture.