Rather than ignoring your negative emotions, try four way of seeing them in a new light.
Workplace drama is nothing new; it’s something you’ve been dealing with from your first job as a pizza boy to your executive role now. The names and faces change along the way, but more likely than not, these are the same feelings that surfaced in the past with testy coworkers.
Your emotions– heightened during this dark, cold time of the year– are always edging you towards a more authentic way of living, a life that feels good to you. If you are willing to pay attention, these emotions show you the path to better leadership and stronger relationships. Here are four common emotions sparked by workplace woes, accompanied by ways to leverage them in your favor.
- It is a word thrown around by doctors and advertisers these days. As commonplace as it has become, anxiety is a mental state to be taken seriously, for it may lead to depression and suicidal thoughts at its extreme expression. The next time you become acutely aware of this emotion in your life, take a moment to step back and look for its cause. Anxiety occurs when you are afraid of something, but you don’t know what you are afraid of or why you are afraid of it. The only way to discover the root of your anxiety is to examine your life honestly.In acute moments of stress, your amygdala (the “lizard brain”) does a great job of pumping out cortisol and adrenaline, leaving little else on your mind than the ability to fight, flight or freeze. However, after a stressful incident, if you notice a persistent feeling of dread, a nagging feeling of apprehension. You are experiencing anxiety, and it is time to capitalize on this emotion. Anxiety exists as a result of a biological adaptation to help you focus on the task at hand, heighten your senses and respond to the “danger” you are faced with. If you find your anxiety lasts more than a day, say even several weeks or months, it would be beneficial to look at the cause and begin to work on removing that stressor from your life. A professional counselor or coach is best suited to help you with chronic anxiety. The next time you are feeling acutely anxious, try to focus on a difficult task such as one you have been putting off because the solutions so far have proved futile, or the task is boring.
- Shame. Women out there have way too much experience with this emotion, but it affects men too. Author and researcher Brené Brown is the queen of shame-speak, but in short, you feel shameful when you have failed to conform to accepted social norms. The next time you yell a little too loudly on the phone, spill wine at a social or say something you regret, crawl out from your rock and savor the shame. It is there to engender a deep memory surrounding a situation. This helps you learn from that experience so you do not repeat your ‘socially unacceptable’ actions again.
- Psychologically, this emotion is separate and distinct from jealously, even though the two are commonly conflated. Think more “wicked witch” in Snow White and less “stepsisters” in Cinderella. Envy is that little twinge of “I WANT” when you see someone drive by in a new Tesla, or when a friend from law school makes partner at your firm before you do. Rather than letting envy consume you to the point you do something you regret (i.e. go into debt to out-drive Mr. Tesla or bad mouth your friend), try using the emotion to your advantage. Envy alerts us to the things we really want in life, and when we know this valuable information, we can look at why we want these things, which is possibly the most valuable information a person can glean from their emotions. Knowing the why gives you a goal to work towards, whether it is a new car or a new gratitude practice AND a new car (because what good is a new car if you don’t appreciate it?)
- Disclaimer: Anger is my favorite ‘bad’ emotion. It makes me get off my butt and do something. Anger alerts me immediately that something is not working. The clarity that comes out of this emotion feels amazing. The next time you feel your stomach cramping, chest tightening and jaw clenching, try to remember the real treat coming after the anger subsides: a laser-focused plan of action and the energy to carry through with your plan. Hint: the more you let go and feel the emotion, the more amazing the things that are going to come out of your rage. If this means taking a trip to your car during lunch to scream or punching a pillow, go for it. As long as you are not involving others in your anger, this emotion can be a powerful driver of change and improvement in your life.
Right now, we are stuck in the lull beyond the winter holiday season, which is full of new demands, new numbers to hit, new clients to please and lots of emotions. Rather than succumbing to the negativity of a bad day, attempt to look at the benefits your brain is biologically prepped to receive from these ‘bad’ feelings.
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