Stress is the theme of the UK's mental health awareness week this year. We asked Laurel Alexander, author of The Resilience Coaching Toolkit, how to confront workplace triggers of stress.
Step One: Take Ownership
It’s very tempting to lean towards an easy life at work and let others do most of the running. While there is something to be said for being laid-back, it’s possible that your relaxed attitude could metamorphosis into inertia and passivity, allowing work colleagues to walk over you.
- See also: Why it's not selfish to put yourself first
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Taking ownership means that you are in the driving seat of your working life. You might not always know where you’re going (or be happy with the tasks you do), but ultimately you’re in charge of the vehicle (you) that is going somewhere. Ownership is about being the adult in your life. You can say yes, no or I don’t know. If you say yes or no, you deal with the consequences, warts and all. If you don’t know, you move onto Step Two – and become informed.
Pay-off tip: By taking ownership of your working life, not only will you feel more in control, but others will respect you more.
Step Two: Increase Pro-Activity
When we’re pro-active, we take action sooner rather than later. We don’t wait for life to swipe us around the face like a wet kipper. We anticipate. We become informed. We make decisions. The decisions might be right or wrong. If they’re right – yippidedoda. If they’re wrong, then we know what not to do, and we continue being pro-active to find a better solution.
Pay-off tip: By being proactive in the workplace, you are likely to find something better than the situation you’re currently in.
Step Three: Improving Self-Care
All this taking ownership and pro-activity can be wearing, so we need to implement and maintain a sustainable self-care programme for ourselves. By self-care I mean look after our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. While it’s great to have someone in our lives who will give us this TLC, we can’t always rely on that especially in the workplace, so we need to look after ourselves. Ways we can do this is physical, e.g. taking breaks and ensuring good nutrition, through relationship, e.g. assertive communication and psychologically, e.g. through self-compassion (e.g. not beating yourself up when you aren’t perfect).
Pay-off tip: Looking after yourself, at home or work, is a nourishing mindset and behavior which will make you feel better about yourself.
Step Four: Manage Strong Emotions
We are emotional animals, and while we want to feel as good as we can about our work, there are times when our emotions feel uncomfortable. While we need to honor our emotions, if we let them get out of control, we tend to lose cognitive function and may be more inclined to make impulsive decisions based on trying to avoid feeling bad. The balance is in allowing ourselves to recognize and accept our emotions while understanding why we feel as we do and how we can use our thought processes to reframe the faulty thinking that often comes with emotional poop.
Pay-off tip: Knowing you can manage those difficult emotions across the board of your life including the workplace, will improve your self-esteem and confidence.
Step Five: View Change as Opportunity
Change is a constant fact of life and our working day is no exception. Every day in the workplace we need to adapt to something different. Positive change management skills such as becoming more adaptable and changing perspective can often open us up to fresh opportunities that we might not otherwise have had.
Pay-off tip: The most simple way to change at work (or anywhere else) is to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to something for the first time and mean it.