The workplace can make a person feel the full range of emotions—sometimes more intensely and frequently than one experiences at home. The difference is that people are often reluctant to show or even acknowledge to themselves their emotions while on the job.
Burying emotions, however, can cause big problems both professionally and personally. Emotions exist specifically to be part of a person’s survival kit. But in the workplace, emotions get ignored due to outdated assumptions, such as being a sign of weakness.
The idea that people can squelch their emotions and still function well is a myth. What’s more, research has shown that when you can identify an emotion, you are able to slow your reactions to it and act wisely for work purposes and in a more healthy way for yourself. In short:
You can name it, tame it, and then can take the right action to properly channel that feeling at that moment.
You can use a journal to evaluate the following emotions experienced at work, which would help you to then redirect them in positive ways:
Anger. Acknowledge and get to know your anger. When ignored, anger turns to momentary rage and lasting resentment; it can shut down your ability to be happy and can even cause long-term ailments such as heart disease. Anger alerts you to set boundaries and facilitate change. So ask yourself these questions: Who or what flips my anger switch on? What happens as a result of my experiencing anger? How does it affect other people and interfere with my goals?
Anxiety. Anxiety arises from thoughts and can catch you in an endless thought loop. “Did I sign off on that contract? Did I forget something?” Anxiety can also serve as a messenger to help you clarify a situation, so that you can take action. Use your phone to create lists or download one of the many apps that can help you stay organized and able to focus on other things. Consider these questions: Who or what flips your anxiety switch on? How does anxiety interfere with your goals? What would you like to experience instead?
Sadness. This emotion often brings a desire to withdraw and the need to cry. It’s a cue that you need time to reflect and let go of things that are not working. Sadness gives you a window into what you value, and when you acknowledge your own sadness, you increase the ability to demonstrate empathy. You develop the courage and ability to do other difficult things.
Discouragement. When left unchecked, discouragement can erode confidence, momentum, and motivation. To go from discouraged to determined, reframe it by identifying three things that are going well for you. Recognize that the discouragement is not a permanent thing. Find a safe person to talk to, then let go of discouragement and reiterate your bigger vision.
Chronic, unmanaged stress is most often caused by an unwillingness to confront these emotions. It not only interrupts the ability to think clearly and work well with others, it chips away at your health. Taking a moment to identify your emotions during a difficult time leads you to having more control over them.
Cynthia Howard, RN, is an executive coach, performance expert, and the author of The Resilient Leader, Mindset Makeover: Uncover the Elephant in the Room.
MeetingsNet’s Six-Part Report on Planners’ Sources of Stress and Their Coping Strategies: