As we wrapped up 2017, our friends, colleagues and family were all focused on making 2018 a better year than our last one. We engaged in honest conversations, and it became clear that what most of us need to pay attention to, both at work and in all parts of our lives, is our emotions and how we behave in tough times. We came up with 6 suggestions, that if practiced, could lead us to taking better care of ourselves and making a positive difference for all of us in the stress of the work environment. No time like the present to start!
1. Don’t Catch Their Disease
We can probably all relate to the experience of having an interaction with someone who is pouty, angry, negative or demonstrating other emotions that can contaminate a climate and drag others down. Our first suggestion is don’t catch their “disease.” This requires us to be aware and sensitive to the impact others have on us, and pay special attention to those whose impact is noticeably negative. Wear an emotional suit of armor so their toxic mood does not contaminate you and trigger you to respond in kind. We don’t want to be the “disease” for others.
2. Take Charge of Your Attitude
This past year presented numerous challenges to all of us, no matter where we sat on the political or cultural spectrum. What we saw were such strong and polarizing differences in the U.S. that those of us who live here often did not recognize the place we live. With all the conflict, it was often easy to respond with a negative, cynical attitude. We had to intervene in our own mindset and make sure we controlled the picture rather than being infected by the larger climate. We can all take charge of our own attitude and we need to so we don’t get overtaken by the larger climate.
3. Use Your Support Network
Getting support from others is a lifeline and giving it to others is an act of grace. We met an incredible woman writer years ago and in her book entitled Paths to Power, the author Natasha Josefowitz, suggests that there are three kinds of support we all need and can give to others: We need: A brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on and a kick in the pants. Perfectly said! Look for opportunities to get that from your support system and give it to others.
4. Change Your Focus, Gain Perspective
There are times we get upset and instead of gaining a new or different perspective, we go deeper into the stew. That does not help. Force yourself to ask questions about what other perspectives are there, and think of at least three different ways to see and interpret events. Doing so is a good beginning. If that is difficult at a given moment, change your focus all together to something else…all of these can help you see things differently. We think it is essential for you to intentionally have a few people in your network who you know will see things differently. It may not be easy or peaceful to hear their voice but it can be very insightful and helpful.
5. Adjust Your Expectations
Our best teacher ever, Dr. John E. Jones, taught us a model that explains the process of anger and one of the key principles in that model is the insight that unmet expectations are always the trigger for anger. It is impossible to do justice to all John taught us but for sure, at the top of the list is how he helped us get a handle on managing our expectations. Being more realistic with them, not expecting yourself or others to walk on water, is a good start. In Lee’s doctoral dissertation on stress and change, 250 questionnaires confirmed that the expectations we have of ourselves and others were the top sources of stress among people in her study. Lets be kinder in general and let the kindness start with each of us.
6. Build in Time for Fun
Last, but not least, we all have commitments to meet and goals to accomplish but life is not only a to do list or grim business. The joy we get from pursuing our passions, alone or with others, makes life worthwhile. What always puts a smile on your face? When you know the answer to that, you are half way home because then you can be responsible for building it into your life. It is not selfish … it is healthy and mandatory.
Paying attention to these six behaviors and making them part of your daily response will keep you healthier and it will have a wonderful impact on those who share whatever environment you are in. Here’s to an emotionally healthy and happy 2018.