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We’ve all had a bad day at work. You’ve been through it, right? It could just be hump day getting you down. Or maybe it started with a rough morning; your train is delayed or the roads were more congested and you missed an important meeting. Or you spilled coffee on your white shirt just before delivering an important presentation. Or your boss is hounding you, you feel overwhelmed with tasks, or there’s someone or something that’s blocking progress on an important project. It feels like nothing is going right for you and you just want to give up.
Because you should never give up on your worst day.
Instead, start with trying these really simple things to turn that bad day around. And next time you see a colleague having a bad day at work, remember these tips and give them a hand!
Look out the window (or door, if you don’t have a window) and, if weather and break times permit, go for a walk. Trade the recycled, air-conditioned office air for the clean, fresh, natural breeze and make sure you inhale long and deep into your lungs.
Don’t underestimate what a change of environment – even just a temporary, five-minute change – can do for your wellbeing. Walking is one of the best things you can do for your health, and it also removes you immediately from the environment or situation that’s causing you stress.
When you get outside try to notice (read: appreciate) the details you wouldn’t normally. The trees. The people. The sunshine or rain. Let the presence of other things and people put you and your own problems into perspective. There’s a world outside your work environment that turns and continues to produce good, even though the negative often appears to outweigh the positive. Even if walking outside just means walking into a crowded city street, a backyard with overgrown grass, or a cramped balcony, look for the beauty in the little things. At the very least you’ll get some Vitamin D.
No, not an alcoholic one (or if you insist on some wine, maybe wait until after work at least!). Seriously though, drink some H2O. It’s the best thing you can do for your body, especially when it’s under stress. Water helps your brain function and it’s a natural and free energy drink that will tackle fatigue, headaches, irritability – all of which are common signs of dehydration. I have an awful habit of not drinking enough water during the day, and I’m not the only one.
So get on your feet, detach yourself from the tasks/work/people that are draining you and top up with a cold glass of water. While you’re at it, offer your desk neighbours a top up too. Simple acts of generosity, like refilling someone else’s
water bottle, can boost the mood in a workplace and remind you and the people around you that we’re all human and appreciate a helping hand.
When a computer or mobile device starts misbehaving, what’s the first thing IT Support ask you to try? Reboot the device.
Similarly, if you feel your brain (or emotions) starting to crash, stop what you’re doing. If you’re at your desk, log off your computer and restart it. Let yourself sit there for a few moments to gather your thoughts (or follow Step 1 and do this outside).
Breathe in and out in counts of 3 and mentally reset your mind and sitting position. Think about the parts of your body that are feeling tense and loosen them. If you’re in a meeting, excuse yourself and go to the loo for five minutes. Recompose. Practice some power poses.
So often, we are consumed by getting things done, we forget the importance of mindfulness at work. When you’ve spent a couple of moments resetting, you’ll have more brain space and energy to tackle challenges – whether they’re project or people related.
Saying thank you when you’re angry or upset may seem counter-intuitive, but proactively seeking out the positive when you’re having a bad day at work is going to do world of wonder for you, and anyone you recognise along the way. There are a myriad of scientific studies that prove the physical and emotional benefits of practicing gratitude. Someone in your workplace has demonstrated support and good work; you just need to look for the moments and recognise them for it.
A study by the University of Kentucky showed participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge. And other studies show that gratitude not only reduces stress but also helps people overcome trauma and build resilience.
It’s easy to point the finger at these activities and label them a waste of time. But sharing a joke or playing scissors-paper-rock to determine who gets DJ privileges for the day’s office music are the little things that build the social fabric of our work community and also are a reminder that wellbeing matters – to all of us.
Find something silly that will put a smile on your face and remind you of the less serious, lighter things in life. Because really… this is just one day, and you’ll get through it.