While we all like to believe we are the sole captains of our destiny, life can be quite unpredictable. Situations arise that are beyond your control, such as a company’s decision to downsize or a partner’s decision to leave. And the aftermath can leave you feeling chaotic and out of control. So what do you do? How do you excel personally and professionally when you feel helpless and overwhelmed? Below are a few tips on staying in control and maintaining your cool:
Breathing exercises are one of the best ways to stay in control of your emotional and mental state. However, this technique works best before reaching the point of explosion. If you are in the middle of a screaming match, deep breathing just becomes a lot of huffing and puffing. The goal is to identify when an out of control moment is coming and what triggers you. Even if you are in a situation that you have not encountered before, most of us have a general idea of what can set us off. Use breathing techniques to quell your emotions. Regulate your breathing by counting or with simple gifs (moving images). A little breathing can go a long way.
Take A Real Moment
For most professionals, “taking a moment” sounds overly simplistic and frankly a bit ludicrous. How are you supposed to manage your ever-growing to-do lists if you are taking breaks to do nothing? And can that truly help regain control of your life? The answer is yes, but only if you take a real moment. Not the two-minute pause in the break room while you scarf down a donut before your co-worker eats them all. (They are for everyone, Janet!) Or the “mediation” that becomes you checking emails on your phone with your eyes half-closed. First, accept that doing nothing is a valid choice. Then, give yourself permission to make that choice. Disconnect from your day, even if it is only five minutes. Also, do not scold yourself if you struggle to stay in the moment. The world is screaming at us to take on the world with the frenzied energy of an excited two-year-old, so sitting still is new and quite uncomfortable. Embrace the art of doing nothing like your life depends on it. (Which it kind of does).
Similar to taking a moment, stepping away refers to removing yourself from stressful situations. As previously mentioned, we all want to be these unstoppable forces that conquer anything that gets in our way. Unfortunately, we are not robots (yet), and certain situations can get the better of us. Allow yourself to step away when needed, even if it’s awkward. We cannot plan when we will feel overwhelmed or upset. It could happen during a presentation or in the middle of a conversation. Express that you need to gather your thoughts and disengage from the situation. Breathe or try a few of these calming techniques. It is better to be momentarily embarrassed than lose control. Sometimes staying in control is simply choosing your reaction.
Make A Change (Even If It Scares You)
If things are really out of control, it may be time to make a change. Ask for that promotion you want but do not feel qualified for or start applying for new jobs you may actually like. Sign up for free online courses to build your skills. Bring mementos to the office that boost your mood. Buy a hard-to-kill plant to brighten your workspace. If personal life is what’s got you down, be direct and honest. Set boundaries with your partner or family, expressing your needs. Let go of relationships that drain you rather than uplift you. Set aside time for yourself to recharge. The change does not have to be monumental to make a difference in your life. You just have to be willing to do something.
Embrace The Chaos (Instead of Staying In Control)
When all else fails, embrace the chaos. Accept that currently you are not in control of things and that is okay. Cry, scream, eat a pint of ice cream, do whatever helps release that tension at the center of your chest. Sometimes the best you can do is cope. Not the greatest or most inspiring advice, but often it is the best you can do. And that is all you can ever do. As long as you keep going and keep trying, you are doing pretty great. Keep your head up, kid.
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