As women, we have all had that moment when we have lost our cool at work. We appeared emotionally over the top or super stressed out. After the fact, we beat ourselves up. We ruminate on coming across as volatile, angry and as the stereotyped “hysterical woman”. We feel the judgment of others and even more damaging, we judge ourselves.
Not only does this create problems for us at work with our coworkers and superiors, it also affects us in a deeper way – we start to shame ourselves which increases and accelerates the cycle of self-doubt. Suddenly we find ourselves distracted and losing focus on what we want to achieve, keeping us from being the person we want to be.
Does this Sounds a little familiar?
You meet up with friends after work at your favorite happy hour, and you can’t stop processing that moment when you lost control earlier that day. You are looking for your friends or coworkers to assure you that it’s okay, it wasn’t that bad, nobody will judge you. However, deep down, your feelings of embarrassment and insecurity about losing control won’t go away.
You replay the tape over and over and think about how you wish you could have handled it, what you wished you had done or said differently. You doubt yourself and feel dread about going back into work. You know you should stop talking about it with trusted friends, but you can’t shake it. You feel disheartened and want to crawl in a hole.
If you keep bombarding yourself with criticism and shame, you eventually wind up in a place that’s negative, toxic and unhealthy. Your self-confidence will dwindle and your motivation to push forward will wane. You will likely feel yourself stuck right where you are, right where you are most unhappy.
But the truth is, many women go through this exact same experience. Struggling with your emotions and looking for ways to appear in control is a common challenge for many women in the work place.
Acknowledging your reactions to stress and your emotionally reactive behavior and seeking support for it in no way means you are less than, or not good enough. Really, it means that instead of constantly wishing you had handled a situation differently, or ruminating on uncomfortable conversations over and over, you are proactive and wanting to learn how to handle things another way.
You want to focus on what your goals are, how your relationships work and your way of interacting with the people in your world. The sooner you can learn to handle stress in the moment and prevent awkward meltdowns from occurring in the first place, the more likely you can focus on the positive things you are working on and achieve your goals.
Keep reading to see how the simple process of square breathing can save you in the moment and create lasting change for you moving forward.
Life without Change
Your relationships at work are becoming more volatile and you know that you appear stressed out. You are afraid that people are starting to think that you are negative and pessimistic and you can’t stop criticizing yourself. Your worry and inner critic are constantly at work and you are having trouble sleeping and bringing confidence to your work each day.
You know that you want to learn new ways to handle stressful and tense situations, but you are unsure how to make the conscious changes, insecure about what people think, and frustrated that you can’t control your reactivity. You have heard about longer term, big commitment solutions to stress relief, but you don’t feel like you have the time to commit to learning them.
Living this way is extremely exhausting. You spend too much time doubting yourself and feeling self-conscious. You can’t stop replaying those embarrassing interactions and time is wasted focusing on the negative moments in your day. The friends you care about might tiring of hearing about your insecurities and your hard-earned progress will be stalled. The focus on being stuck, will make it much harder to reach your dreams.
You may find that even your relationships will be strained and that people will distance themselves and get tired of being around someone who’s so reactive. They are tired of the apologies and the instability in your reactions.
When you Start to Take Charge and Manage your Stress and Emotions with Intention
Believe it or not, there are strategies that anyone can do that will immediately help you feel calmer so you can regain control quickly with just a few minutes of focus and concentration.
Although you struggle with reactivity, you have the potential to gain control. While emotional control can be a complex issue, there are simple strategies out there for quickly getting on top of the situation and steering clear of embarrassing outbursts. You will find that you feel more focused, less anxious and a whole lot calmer. You may even sleep better. As your increase your skill, your communication will be less reactive and clearer and as a result, you can let go of the constant rehashing and ruminating about your interactions. You will feel more energized to get through day, and more confident that you can manage the challenges that come your way with increased flexibility and grace.
On a personal level, your relationships will likely improve. You trusted friends and colleagues will not have to reassure you all the time and you can be present in the moment when interacting with people – in control, free to hear what people are saying and feeling and connecting on a deeper level.
How to simply and quickly gain the upper hand in our emotional reactions so that we can focus on what we would like to and not on the aftermath of an uncomfortable conversation
At Grit and Grace, I work with my clients on several levels to identify the internal and external triggers that precede our reactive behavior. On an emotional/cognitive level, we dig in to understand what the triggers are and how to identify ways to refute or cope with them. On a physical or more immediate level, I educate my clients on the importance of relaxation exercises, specifically relaxations strategies that are simple to do and invisible to the outer world – meaning they can be done, in the moment to avoid those embarrassing situations where you lose control….and no one will know! That is what I would like to share with you.
What’s the process?
When I work with a client, I give a brief demonstration of square breathing in session. After showing the client, we then do it together as I walk them through it. Remember, it’s simple and easy to do, it only takes a few minutes to learn. I usually will have my clients do it independently in session and at home so they can get the hang of it and realize how simple it really is. In fact, some clients find it so relaxing and centering, they ask that we start out each session with the exercise as a way to center and focus the mind and body. I love that! When I do it with clients, its centers me as well, setting the stage for a great session!
When the client is first learning, I will do a quick check in between sessions via email and cheer them on, as any new habit, no matter how easy, needs a little extra motivation and practice. We set a simple and attainable goal and I hold them accountable. My goal is for clients to easily understand when to do relaxation exercises, gain insight into how it will help, how easy it is to incorporate/weave in to life with little effort.
Square breathing has got to be one of the simplest and easiest ways to relax. You can do it anywhere and anytime. I always tell clients, there are two levels – the public level and the go for it, nobody is around level. If you are alone, you can be more dramatic with it. If you are at work, in the grocery store or sitting in traffic, you can learn to do it in a way that you don’t have to step out and nobody will know you are doing it. Leave all the chanting and incense behind for this one! This is no nonsense, practical stuff.
Step 1: Breathe in through nose for four counts, slows breathing increases oxygen, focuses energy, calms/centers
Public Level: Quietly and calmly breathe in through your nose. You don’t have to shut your eyes, no chanting, leg crossing or sitting in the dark. Do the exercise maybe 3-4 times, even once if you need an emergency breath in the moment and that’s all you got! Still works!
Go for it Level: Sit down in a quiet space, get comfortable, close your eyes and breathe.
Step 2: Hold breath for four counts, stills your mind, laser focus on the moment
Step 3: Blow out through your mouth, pushing out stress, signifies letting go, pushing out anxiety
Public Level – quietly breathe out through your mouth. With practice believe me, no one will notice!
Go for it Level: In a private space, Blow it all Out! Imagine blowing out your stress, toxic thoughts and all negativity. Get dramatic with it, make some noise.
Step 4: Repeat, solidifies relaxation and focus.
While learning a new habit, no matter how simple, requires commitment, if you follow a step by step process, you can start to see big results in the way that you interact with others and to stressful situations. You can master this process simply and easily.
Originally post on July 8, 2018 – How to Take Charge and Manage Your Workplace Stress With Intention
Anne Cevallos is an LCSW that brings a diverse set of experiences to her therapy practice. Before she became a therapist, she worked as a consultant in the tech industry, as well as a life coach who supported women in achieving career success. She received her LCSW and has spent the last 10 years supporting a diverse set of clients with their mental health and counseling needs. Call (888) 987-9582 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free consultation. Visit Anne Cevallos’s Profile