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Dealing with a stressful day

Updated on March 11, 2015

I think that most people would describe me as a fairly happy, easy going person. I tend to not take myself too seriously and I try to find the joy in small things. That said, I do take my work very seriously. And, I like everyone, have my good days and my not so good days.

I want to share 5 short things that I learned about stressful days. You know the ones I'm talking about. Days where it seems like everything that can go wrong does go wrong; days where it seems that everything you do, not matter how hard you try, just doesn't work.



It is easy to get overwhelmed when the problems pile up. Today was one of those days for me. As soon as I sat down at my desk and looked at my emails I was feeling the pressure. I saw a few emails in a row that several of the big tasks I have been working on were rejected by an outside company and needed to be resubmitted. I'll be honest, my first thought was "Oh no, those rejection letters went to my boss too". I felt the pressure closing in around me. Then, I sat back in my chair and just breathed for a minute. It's amazing how just the simple task of bringing oxygen in and out can bring us back to reality. And the reality for me was that it was okay. I was given this task because my boss believes I can get it accomplished. We knew from the onset that there would be setbacks. This is one of them, not a reflection of poor performance.



I am sure that you have all heard the saying that it takes few muscles to frown than it does to smile. Well, do just that - smile! When I feel the stress I know that I have a choice to make. I can get upset and be miserable or I can put a smile on my face and make the best of things. This does not mean ignoring what it going on around you. But have you ever noticed how difficult it is to be mad when you are smiling? It also saves others around you from feeling like they are walking on eggshells around you; like you could crack at any time. Remember that your attitude can easily affect that of those around you.

TIP: If you have a phone to answer, do so with a smile. The person on the other end of the phone will notice that too.


Taking a quick walk will remove you from the immediate area that you are feeling the stress. It gives you a few moments to refocus. I'm not really one for just walking around the office. What I will do instead is find purpose to go for a walk. Sometimes I have a reason that I need to see someone else at work. Other times I have a different task that I need to accomplish in a different part of the office. Sometimes I go for a walk to get a cup of water or coffee. Whatever your reason, take a short walk and refocus yourself.

This project started as a bunch of long pieces of pipe that I had the vision to turn into a judge gym. By focusing on the end goal, the pipes were cut, threaded by hand, put together and welded. This is the end result.
This project started as a bunch of long pieces of pipe that I had the vision to turn into a judge gym. By focusing on the end goal, the pipes were cut, threaded by hand, put together and welded. This is the end result. | Source


Now we are getting a little more complicated. When things start to go wrong, ask yourself what you would like to be happening. I read recently that, "If you can't tell me what you'd like to be happening, you don't have a problem yet. You're just complaining...". Complaining will not get you very far at all. Look at what you want to happen and focus your time and energy on making that happen. This takes you out of the victim mentality. The thinking that says "nothing is going right for me". It puts you in the achiever mentality. The thinking that says "I can do this".



It is easy to get caught up in the stress and feel like it will never end. Remember that tomorrow is a brand new day - treat it as such. Do not let the setbacks of today carry into tomorrow. Go into each day with a fresh mindset. When you leave work, don't rush home and start working from home right away. Allow yourself some time (more than a short walk around the office) to decompress. Make a nice dinner. Spend time with your family. Get a good night of sleep. And start tomorrow as the new day that it is.

This is my chess piece that has a home on my desk.
This is my chess piece that has a home on my desk.


Last year I attended a conference in New York City. During the second day we all walked in and there was a box of chess pieces with a sign asking everyone to take one. My group and I thought about what they meant all day. Maybe whatever chess piece we took said something about our leadership style? I worried because I chose the queen, arguably the most powerful piece on the board. Wonder what that could mean about my leadership style?

Finally, towards the end of the day the chess piece mystery was made known to us. We were told that chess is one of the most popular games in the world; with that, use the chess piece to remind yourself to play throughout the day. I took that very seriously. I keep my chess piece on my desk every day. As I am on the phone, or looking at my tasks, I will sometimes pick it up and twirl it in my fingers. It serves as a reminder that it is okay to have fun at work. That is NOT an excuse to goof around all day. It IS permission to enjoy your day.

Think about it this way. If you work an average 8 hour day, you are spending one third of your day at work. If you assume a full 8 hours of sleep at night, that is one half of your waking hours. Is it worth being miserable that entire time? I would rather enjoy the majority of my day. Wouldn't you?

I wish that I could say that I have these steps down to a perfect science. But that would be a lie. It is a continual process as much as it is a choice. What about you? How do you handle a stressful day? What works best for you?

© 2015 Ray Smith


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