Written by Mark Rowland - 05 March 2020
It’s natural to feel stressed because of a heavy workload – but it’s important not to let it control you. Here are six ways you can overcome these overwhelming emotions
As a younger man, emotional control was not in my wheelhouse. Once, in the middle of a particularly stressful and frustrating project, I kicked a door so hard that I almost broke my toe. In my unwavering belief that I knew what was best for the projects I was working on, I would often get into arguments with colleagues.
Since then, I’ve taken active steps to control my emotional responses at work, and wouldn’t act this way in any environment now. Keeping your emotions in check is more important than ever before – businesses are looking to cultivate positive, productive cultures. Emotional intelligence is one of the most crucial traits you need to display, particularly if you have your sights set on becoming a manager.
Daniel Goleman, in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, says that to be successful in the modern workplace, we must be able to understand our emotions, control our reactions and recognise how your actions and emotions can affect others around you. By controlling your emotions in difficult situations, you can think more clearly and come up with better solutions as a result.
The hardest emotions to manage
There are common emotions that people struggle with the most when it comes to emotional control. Frustration, for example, is prevalent in complex and demanding working environments, where limitations on resources or unwieldy processes can slow down work and productivity.
Anxiety is another frequent issue, often borne out of insecurity. Irrational fears around loss of control or, if suffering from imposter syndrome, fearing being ‘found out’ result in a drop in productivity, an inability to think straight, or even surliness. Anger can come out of both frustration and anxiety, and while some of that might involve slamming (or kicking) doors, it often manifests itself in subtler ways – snark and cynicism, harsh criticism, abrupt dismissiveness. All of these microaggressions can have a negative impact on your co-workers.
One of the most difficult to manage emotions is ‘dislike’. It is inevitable that there will be someone that you don’t like in your workplace or at university – that’s okay – but you have to be able to put your feelings aside and work with them. Otherwise, it could bring the whole team down.
The best techniques for managing your emotions come out of mindfulness. They are easy to learn but tricky to master – be patient and take the time to learn how to use them. It will take time for them to become completely effective.
Know your emotions
Self-awareness is the first step to getting your emotions under control. Think about times in which you’ve got particularly angry, frustrated, down or anxious. What triggered those feelings? How did you respond to them? How do you think that impacted the people around you? This exercise will help you to identify problem areas and develop strategies for dealing with them.
Write things down
Self-reflection on your feelings about difficult and emotionally fraught situations can help you channel your emotions into something more productive. Let your feelings out on-page and write down some possible solutions that you could use to prevent the situation from happening again.
Be aware when you’re losing control
If you can feel yourself becoming overly emotional or angry in a situation, take time to mentally acknowledge it. Be mindful of your own feelings in that moment, and remind yourself that it’s inappropriate to react that way.
Use your breathing
Mindful breathing can help you to pause and relax in difficult situations. Focus on your breathing – take long, slow breaths. Take yourself out of the situation if you have to; it can take a while for your emotions to subside. The more you do this, the easier it will get. This method is particularly effective for dealing with anxiety.
Keep it up
The more you use these techniques, the easier it will be to master your emotions at work. Don’t beat yourself up if you do lose control in the workplace; we all have blips from time to time. Learn from the experience and keep trying.
One of the most powerful things you can do is own your mistakes and understand the impacts that your actions have on others. That awareness helped me to get my own emotions under control, and understanding your impacts will make you a better manager in the long run.
If you’re looking for ways to understand how work impacts your emotions, sign into ManagementDirect and search for content on ‘Emotional Intelligence’. With leader videos, articles, and pearls of wisdom, you can get to grips with what it means to use your emotions intelligently at work.
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Mark Rowland is a senior writer. He has worked as a business journalist and editor for 15 years, and has won awards for his writing and editing. He has also overseen the launch and continuous development of new websites and publications.