Frustration on the job isn't necessarily a bad thing. Occasional frustration is the impetus to better problem solving, creativity and innovation. On the other hand, chronic frustration may lead to a cycle of continual stress at work. Regular stress triggers your flight-or-fight response and can lead to irritability, fear and irrational anger, which fuel conflicts and workplace fighting. Break out of this cycle by following this four-step plan for a more peaceful workplace.
1. Recognize Your Emotions
The only thing you really have control over is yourself, so start reducing your stress at work by taking a good look at how you respond to things during your workday. Get in the habit of recognizing your feelings. Sometimes simply labeling emotions helps reduce stress. After you label an emotion, try to pinpoint the cause. It is easy to blame others for your irritations, but many times the true cause of an emotion is out of everyone's control. For example, if you are irritated with your co-workers, you might realize that you are really sad. On further reflection, the cause of your sadness might simply be that it is a rainy day and you had to cancel your hiking plans for after work.
2. Manage Your Emotions
After you start recognizing your emotions, it's time to start learning to control them better. Mindfulness meditation is a way to stay in the moment and not be ruled by your feelings. Practice taking several deep breaths when problems arise. Keep your mind on the task in front of you, and let other thoughts and feelings float gently away. If you are used to keeping lists of projects, tasks and concerns in your head, start jotting things down. This frees up mental space for less frustration throughout your day. Simply taking a slow walk during your lunch break or adding a weekly yoga class to your schedule can go a long way toward reducing your stress at work.
3. Focus on Reality
You can't change the past, so practice letting go of your own past mistakes and the mistakes of others. To reduce stress at work, you need to keep your focus on now. If you are too critical of yourself, you inevitably become more judgmental of others. Learn to put yourself in your co-workers' and manager's shoes. Try to understand why they do the things they do to reduce your own frustration levels when you are not happy with their actions.
4. Build Positive Relationships
Employees who have friends at work are happier and more productive at their jobs. Keep an eye out for co-workers who have similar values to yourself, and work on forming friendship for less stress at work. Look for others with a sympathetic ear and a sense of fun. Practice smiling and striking up conversations first thing in the morning and during lunch. Show empathy and compassion for others' struggles, and cultivate kindness in your interactions.
Take responsibility for the cycle of stress at work, and learn to recognize your emotions and get them under control. Treat your co-workers and managers with the same compassion that you would like yourself. Most workplace fighting starts with the small things, so learn to let go of minor irritations for a calmer work environment.
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