Much of our work-related stress stems from difficult interactions with coworkers and clients. A colleague of mine recently told me a story about how she had been asked by the head of her department to prepare a presentation for the administrative team meeting. She got about two minutes into her talk when the department head interrupted her, changed the topic, and moved on to the other agenda items. She never got to finish her presentation, and felt dismissed and disrespected in front of her peers.
How do we recover from this type of work-related social stress? We cannot control other people or their behaviors. And as much as we would sometimes love to put a big “Do Not Disturb” sign on our office door, avoiding everyone is not a long-term solution.
When your workplace social threat level rises, the best strategies for recovering are self-management habits that decrease the impact of the event on your mood, motivation and productivity. Healthy habits for managing your stress will strengthen your resilience so you are less disturbed by bad interpersonal interactions going forward. Try these three proven strategies:
Emotional labeling. When social stress happens, our body’s natural survival mechanisms kick in and we start to feel emotions such as anger, hurt, and frustration. Rather than ignoring your emotions or snapping at your coworker, close your eyes for a couple few seconds and acknowledge that you are having a natural response to a stressful situation. Non-judgmentally label the emotion as specifically as possible. Then, give yourself permission to move on. You will find that you recover more quickly from the stressful event.
Laugh about it. After a stressful event happens, we have the option of interpreting it in a variety of ways. Do you retell it in your mind – and to others – as a horror story or a comedy? You might find that work-related interactions that were incredibly stressful at the moment can become hilarious stories to tell at dinner parties. You will feel better about yourself and the other person when you can laugh at what happened.
Get some (mental) space. One of the keys to reducing work-related stress is to mentally detach when you are not at the office. Studies show that people who spend their evenings and weekends engaged in hobbies, exercise, and social activities have lower job-related stress. The more you spend time doing activities you find pleasurable and rewarding, the more resilient you will be during times of stress.