It would be lovely if every day at work could be relaxing, supportive, and goal-enriching. If every interaction went smoothly. If, at the end of every day, one drew in a deep, satisfied breath of a joyful experience. In our reality, even in the best of jobs, this is rarely the norm.
Co-workers have trouble sleeping at night and come in grouchy. Bosses are pressured from above and take it out on their underlings. Employees don’t do their tasks out of apathy, lack of understanding, or a thousand other reasons.
Mindfulness can help.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness involves you detaching the situation you’re in from your emotions. You take a virtual step back. You look at the surrounding situation through calm, non-judging eyes. It lets you consider just what is going on.
This can certainly be challenging to do the first time. Or the second. That’s why gently practicing with it every day can help it become easier when you are in a stressful situation. The process becomes more second nature.
You draw in a long, deep breath. You consider. You explore.
How Does Mindfulness Help?
So often in work situations the issue is not just about you. It is about a complicated combination of things. Maybe the person you’re talking with had a fight with their partner this morning. Maybe they’re feeling pressure from a co-worker or boss. Perhaps it’s because they’re so wrapped up in their head that they aren’t thinking clearly.
We can’t control any of that.
We don’t have devices to alter, change or ‘fix’ another person with a big orange button.
The only thing we can watch over is ourselves. So, if only for the sake of your own health and well-being, start down that path.
How Do You Use Mindfulness?
If at all possible, take a long, deep breath. Not an exasperated one, but a calm one. A filling one. Just as adrenaline and stress send the body into fight-or-flight mode, deep breaths bring the body into a calmer state. It’s a built-in signal to the body that it can relax. It won’t dissolve the adrenaline out of your system, but it’s a start.
Next, let the person know they have been heard. In so many situations the underlying problem has to do with communication. The act of showing them that you have heard the message and recognize what they’ve said can often help a great deal. Simple is fine. “I understand that Mrs. McGillicuddy is very upset about the missed appointment. I agree that missed appointments damage our reputation.”
If the person you’re with tends to vent for venting’s sake, do your best to move to a solution. “I have a few ideas on how to improve this going forward. Can we discuss them?” Or even, “I need help brainstorming ideas on how to improve this going forward.”
If the person just likes to vent, do your best to listen quietly. This is no longer about you. It is about them and their issues. Long term, though, that is clearly not a healthy solution. If their default is to yell and vent, and they prefer that over finding solutions, it might be time to bring it up to someone who can make a difference. If you’re in a one-boss shop then it’s probably time to look for a new job. It is not worth your life to expose yourself to a toxic person for a long length of time.
The more you role model healthier behavior, the more you can short-circuit the angry cycles. Over time, you can draw people into a more rational way of approaching challenges.
But, in the end, remember that you can only change you. You can help model healthy behavior for others, but they have their own challenges. They may not be currently capable of behaving in a healthy manner. In that situation you need to care for yourself. That could mean finding a different job where your health is better cared for. There is almost always a way to make things work somewhere else. Make that a critical life goal.
Until you’re able to achieve that, remind yourself each day that you are the caretaker of you. How other people choose to behave is within their own brain. It is not about you or your worth as a person. An exhausted, overheated toddler’s tantrum over not getting a bowl of ice-cream is not an indicator of anything other than their fried mental state. It’s something to be compassionate about without taking the words or emotions personally.
The more you practice mindfulness, especially on smaller, day-to-day activities, the more that the skill set will benefit you when emotions rise.