We’ve all had those moments at work. A difficult client turns a productive meeting sour. Your boss berates you over something you can’t control. Or everything on a project just goes wrong within one miserable half-hour period. You feel your blood pressure rising and your breath quickening. You want to pound your fists on your desk, punch your computer monitor, and hurl your phone out your boss’ window.
Of course you know that violence towards office supplies isn’t the answer, and that it’s wise to keep a handle on your emotions at work. But in those infuriating instances, how do you get through the heat of the moment?
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help release your frustration and refocus on being the calm, collected professional you are—not the tantrum-throwing child you may feel like at the moment. Read on for six simple ways to keep your cool, no matter what comes your way.
1. Just Breathe
Though your first instinct might be to open your mouth and snap back (or just scream)—close it and breathe instead. You’ve heard it before, right? Just count to 10. But there’s a point there: “While it may not remove the stressor,” says Swati Mittal Jagetia, a certified professional coach with Purpose Squared, Inc., “it buys you time to step back, put things in perspective, and bite your tongue before you say something you might regret.”
2. Write It Out (But Don’t Send It Out!)
Sometimes, finding that emotional release can be as simple as getting your feelings into words. So grab a pen and some paper and ink out your thoughts—just keep them to yourself. “Don't put anything in writing [to someone else] when you've been provoked or a foul mood has taken over,” says Jagetia. “Emails can be saved, forwarded, and placed in your file for future reference if something goes wrong.” Your best bet: once you’ve exorcised your demons, shred (or permanently delete) the evidence.
3. Vent to a Trusted Colleague
Most of us have at least one close ally at work, someone we can confide in about everything job-related. It can be cathartic to discuss your aggravation with a person who understands your company’s unique environment and employee dynamics. So next time your boss really gets under your skin, a brief venting session with this trusted comrade can help put things back in perspective. Just be sure to do it out of earshot of anyone else—a nearby Starbucks may be a safer bet than your cube (as long as it’s not a gathering spot for your other colleagues). And be sure to offer the same safe confidence next time your partner-in-crime is feeling spent, too.
4. Get a Little Love
Sometimes, what you really need is a (virtual) hug. Good friends or significant others can be the perfect source for support in difficult situations. If you can sneak in a quick text or call and hear a familiar, friendly voice for a few minutes, it may be just enough to talk you off the ledge. Even if your loved ones can’t offer the same inside perspective as a work comrade can, the personal boost can go a long way in cheering you up or reminding you that there is more to life than the current predicament. (Personally, I’m not above calling my mom in the direst of circumstances.)
5. Find Your Happy Place
Taking a few minutes to peruse a favorite website can give you a great mental escape. So if you need to calm down after a particularly anger-inducing morning, troll through your Pinterest feed, check out the latest Anthropologie sale, or get in a couple rounds of Angry Birds at lunch. Taking that short break to distract yourself or focus on something that makes you happy can ease your stress and help you to return to work in a better mood.
6. Take a Break
If things are really intense—say, you’ve just been passed up for a promotion by the colleague who took credit for your great idea—one of the best solutions can be to remove yourself (at least temporarily) from the situation. Take your lunch, go grab coffee, or just walk outside a bit—leaving your phone and email behind. Getting out from the confines of those four walls can provide you the physical and mental distance you need to blow off some steam and relax.
At one point or another, we all have that day in the office where we get close to our breaking point. That’s OK. But be ready for it: Have a few tactics that you know work to calm you back down—and keep your professionalism (not to mention your cubicle) intact, no matter how bad it seems in the moment.