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Work(ing on) Emotions: 5 Tips to Keep Your Cool

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Great leaders are better at controlling their reactions in high-pressure situations. Here are five ways to get yours under control. 

By Whitney Sogol (Global Health Consultant)

History suggests that great leaders are better able than others to control their moods and reactions in high-pressure situations. There is a good reason for this. Research shows that moods are contagious and that if a leader shows her team that she is stressed or upset, they are likely to catch her mood faster than a cold, and produce poorer quality work as a result. On the flip side, if she is able to remain calm, her team will probably do the same and excel.

Since humans are not robots, we are all susceptible to intense feelings. So, what do you do when you feel your face turning red and your blood boiling, whether it is the result of something going on inside or outside the office?

I’ve never had good answers to these question, so I asked a colleague and did a bit of research. What I learned was simple. I was both surprised and a little disappointed it took me so long to figure out.

What is the big reveal on how you should you handle emotions at work? Put some concrete tactics in place. Here are several examples.

    1. Think ahead. Anticipate what you are going to feel in a particular situation—a meeting, a check-in with your boss, etc.—so that you can better control your response and prepare for how you’ll react. For example, if you know you are going to be upset, develop an action plan for what you will do after the encounter, whether that means crying for five minutes in a private bathroom stall, buying yourself a latte or oggling a puppy cam for two to three minutes.
    1. Take a walk. Before responding to emails, colleague comments or a bosses’ irrational deadline, take a walk. Get outside of yourwork environment. You’ll be able to respond more professionally and calmly when you get back.
    1. Ground yourself. Literally. Find somewhere discreet and stomp your feet. Two big stomps should suffice. By putting yourself back in your body and taking yourself out of your head, you can diffuse some of the emotions you are feeling.
    1. Maintain perspective. You have a life outside your job. If you feel like you don’t, you might consider working on creating one. Research shows it will make you more productive and happier. Remind yourself that in the grand scheme of your professionalcareer and life, a given incident is probably just a little blip.
    1. Breathe. Take three deep breaths, close your eyes and witness what you are feeling. Try to do this without judging yourself. Or, in other words, practice mindfulness. As you likely know, mindfulness and meditation are trending these days largely because the practices seem to work pretty well. I’m no model here. I can barely keep my mind quiet for one second. But there are dozens of experts such as Deepak Chopra, who can help you add this tactic to your toolbox.

We all have feelings, some more rational than others. We all have coping mechanisms to get through our day-to-day. At 30, I am only now learning how to understand and navigate my emotions.

How do you cope?

This post originally appeared on Project Eve

9945a5acd4a702b83257a58ccecafe90About the blogger: Whitney Sogol is a global health consultant in New York. You can finder her through her blog, on Twitter (@whitsogs) or via email ([email protected]). She resides in Brooklyn.