One of the biggest challenges at work is not necessarily the challenges we face, but rather what we think about them. Our thoughts significantly influence our reality because what we think influences how we react and respond.
Let’s take an example from outside the workplace to illustrate this point. Say that someone cuts you off in traffic. If you think that is offensive, may respond by getting upset, honking, throwing up a lude gesture, or name-calling. These reactions raise your blood pressure and create an adrenalin surge; increasing your stress level. All of this just because you think it's wrong to be cut off and reacted to that thought.
Imagine if you could shift your thinking to believing that you just did someone a generous favor by letting them in your lane. In an instant, you have the choice to think thoughts that leave you a stressed out road-rager, or a good Samaritan. Which feels better?
Now think about current situations in your work life which stress you out and consider reframing how you think of them. Instead of thinking that the person who has not gotten back to you in a timely matter is unprofessional and rude, could you find another way to reach out to them? Instead of allowing your thoughts to wander about a difficult co-worker, could choose to think of someone you really care about instead?
We may not have control of what is happening in our life, but we do have control over what and how we think about it. Unplugging from negative thinking can be challenging, since most of us have gotten very familiar with the following three stress-producing mental patterns:
- Negative self talk about ourselves
- Negative self talk about others and/or situations
- Negative future fantasizing (aka worry about the future)
It does not matter how many yoga classes you take, relaxing meditation CD's you listen to, or massages you get. If you are not working daily to unplug from negative thinking, you are missing one of the key ingredients to creating balance in your life while enjoying your time at work.
Of course, engaging in stress-reducing activities is helpful, but you will get more bang for your buck if you are mindful of your thoughts while doing them. Have you ever taken a yoga class (or participated in any other de-stressing activity) and noticed that while your body may have been present, your mind was somewhere in the past or future, engaged in one or more of the above negative thought patterns?
If you really want to experience less stress at work, it's time to unplug from negative thinking while you’re doing it. Having control over your thoughts will support you in feeling recharged and renewed in all aspects of your life. You may be thinking, "Okay, Miss Suzy Sunshine, how do you possibly expect me to think positively about something that is just plain awful?" While it's true that a spoonful of positive self-talk during tense situations at work may sound unreasonable, but you can always choose more life-enhancing thoughts.
For example: "I accept what is going on, even if I do not like it much. I forgive myself for blaming myself or anyone else for this. I am willing to learn from this. I will do something for myself that feels good..." and so on.
It takes practice and commitment to unplugging from mental patterns that create stress. A wonderful first step is to come up with a catch phrase that you can say to yourself whenever you notice yourself stressing yourself out with your thoughts. One of my favorites is: "Stop. This thought does not feel good, I am choosing different thoughts." Often just internally telling myself to stop is enough. Additionally, I recommend investing 30 minutes a day of engaging in life-enhancing thoughts. You can work the 30 minutes into your workday by breaking them up into six five-minute segments. Here are some suggestions for how you can spend your time recharging your mental battery with uplifting thoughts:
- Think about gratitude by writing in a journal about all the things you appreciate.
- Think about a beautiful memory or an inspired vision you have of your future.
- Trigger self-supporting thoughts by talking to someone about something that fills you with joy.
- Engage in any type of creative thinking.
- Listen to your favorite, most inspiring song.
Add some creatively to your workday and decrease your daily dose of stress by practicing unplugging from the negative thoughts that are decreasing your productivity. You will notice that the angst and stress you feel will start to decrease and you will become more engaged in your works as your thoughts become more positive and supportive.