Keeping Calm from 9 to 5

Looking to become leaders in their industryFrom project lists that grow increasingly unmanageable with virtually each passing hour – to coworkers who are seemingly bent on making each day a living, breathing hellscape – it’s no wonder that workplace stress levels often skyrocket stratospherically.


If this description doesn’t apply to you, consider yourself fortunate, and consider hugging each and every one of your coworkers. But if the above depiction precisely encapsulates your office life, read on.


Reactions and Actions that Send Stress Packing

Adages that apply to life outside the office, often apply to life inside the office. For example, as a general rule, there are vast swaths of life situations over which we have no control. We can, however, control our reactions to said situations. Applying this adage to workplace life can go a long way toward staying calm from 9 to 5.


With that overarching goal in mind, internalize the following tips, and watch gleefully as your workplace stress takes up permanent residence in your outbox.


  • Be realistic – When you feel your blood starting to boil, ask yourself: Whatever’s occurring at work right now, does it really fall into the catastrophic category? Or, more specifically, pose these questions: Will this issue matter to me next week?; next month?; next year?; in 10 years? The odds are overwhelming that the answer is a resounding “no,” so let it go.


  • Purposefully breathe – When you’ve reached your stress tipping point, take a one-minute timeout and do the following:

-take five deep breathes in and out, with your stomach pushing forward
with each exhale;

-physically feel the stress leaving your body as you exhale;

-complete the exercise by smiling; even a forced smile has a calming effect.


  • Massage tense regions – On the heels of your breathing exercise, conduct a body audit to isolate areas of tension, such as a clinched jaw or rounded shoulders. Gently massage any areas of tightness, and imagine calming scenes – e.g., napping in a hammock – while doing so.


  • Visualize a best-case scenario – So, stress has hit the fan so to speak, and you’re about to meet with the coworker who is most culpable in making your office life an ongoing nightmare. A few minutes prior to this meeting, mentally visualize yourself having a calm, rational, effective conversation with this individual. Then, during the actual encounter – regardless of how this person behaves – do not veer from this visualization.


  • Be the king or queen of kindness – To keep stress at bay, tap another timeworn adage: Kill them with kindness. As corny as it may sound, smiling and offering a cheery “good morning” are truly effective techniques when it comes to disarming a combative coworker. Other simple acts – such as bringing a colleague a cup of coffee – can go a long way toward keeping work relationships on an even keel. Additionally, taking the high road doesn’t equate to being a doormat; rather, it’s an effective means of prevention, one that will leave you feeling like you’ve done the right thing – because you have.


  • Consciously nurture relationships – In an effort to keep conflict-prone coworkers in check, take steps to consciously nurture office relationships. For example, fight the urge to start the day by immediately taking a deep digital dive through all the emails that have accumulated overnight. Instead, spend a few minutes exchanging pleasantries with those around you – e.g., comment on the good weather, a good game, a good commute, etc. Another way to fortify relationships is to reintroduce yourself every so often. Let’s say you’ve been buried by a big project for days – or, worse, for weeks. When you’re finally able to come up for air, take some time to reboot; walk around the office and casually “check in” with any and all coworkers you come across. It’s amazing how such small investments can produce rich returns in the form of pleasant work relationships.






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Susan Peters