We all have that one colleague who somehow manages to stay calm and collected no matter what the day throws at them. With god-like serenity, they navigate negative feedback, stressful interactions, and high-pressure meetings without missing a beat. If you, like me, watch these people with envy, wondering how you could ever achieve a fraction of their composure – keep reading! We at Umbrella have put together some useful tips for how to regulate your emotions at work.
Emotional regulation, the ability to exert control over our emotions, has important implications for the workplace. For example, if leaders are able to manage their emotions in a healthy way, this can have a positive effect on their team’s morale and motivation. Furthermore, at an individual level, simply knowing how to regulate one’s emotions has been associated with positive outcomes in terms of wellbeing, social connectedness, and job performance.
Although part of our ability to emotionally regulate may be innate (i.e. something that we are born with), research suggests that there are a range of methods that can be adopted to improve our skills in this area, as follows.
Mindfulness practices contribute to emotional regulation by teaching us to acknowledge and accept our emotions in a non-judgemental way. Use of mindfulness techniques have been shown to improve outcomes in highly emotional situations, for example when people are going through a bereavement.
What can I do to improve mindfulness? The great thing about mindfulness is that it can be practised in conjunction with a wide range of activities. Whether this means going for a mindful walk, eating your breakfast mindfully, doing mindful chores around the house, or even simply focusing on your breathing, the same basic principles of mindfulness apply. Whatever the activity, some good mindfulness tips are:
- Pay attention. Use all of your senses, touch, sound, sight, smell and taste, to fully engage in the activity. For example, when focusing on your breathing, pay attention to how the air feels as it moves through your body, or the sound you hear when you inhale or exhale.
- Live in the moment. Aim to be fully present in whatever it is you are doing, and look to find joy in the small things you experience. If your thoughts stray, acknowledge that this has happened without judgement, then gently direct your attention back to the activity.
- Accept yourself. If you experience negative emotions or aren’t able to be fully present and mindful at all times, that’s OK. Try to be accepting and understanding of yourself, including whatever it is you are thinking and/or feeling.
For more information on the benefits of mindfulness at work, and some free mindfulness meditations, see here.
Reappraisal is a strategy for emotional regulation that involves reframing emotional situations in order to lessen the negative emotional impact. Research suggests that reappraisal is associated with wellbeing, and with experiencing more positive and fewer negative emotions.
For example, imagine that your boss asks you to present your work to your team. Many people, myself included, find giving presentations to be anxiety provoking, leading to thoughts like, “This is going to go so badly” or “I just know that I’m going to trip over my words”. However, a way of re-appraising this situation may be to tell myself more positive stories like, “Being asked to give a presentation shows that my boss values the work I am doing” or “This is a good opportunity to get some team input”.
How do I practise reappraisal? For more information on the different types of reappraisal, and how to practise these, see here.
Avoid engaging in emotional suppression
Ever been told to “get hard” or “suck it up” when you’re feeling emotional? These are common sentiments in New Zealand, so it is hardly surprising that many people will attempt to regulate their emotions by bottling them up or pushing them down. However, research suggests that emotional suppression (trying to stop ourselves from expressing the emotions we are feeling) is associated with higher levels of depression and anxiety. In emotional situations, aim to avoid emotional suppression in favour of a healthier emotional regulation strategy, such as those described above.
How do I avoid engaging in emotional suppression? For more information on emotional suppression and how to avoid engaging in this, see here.
Other resources for improving your emotional wellbeing
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