5 Practical Ways to Stay Positive, Even at Work
While it’s entirely normal to feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, we each have the ability to stay emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy through the choices we make. I believe that taking ownership of our own stress levels and practicing self-care are two ways we can begin to find the balance we all seek in our individual lives. When we move beyond fear into the conscious choice of embracing happiness and self-care, we move from away from stress and overextension, and toward success. Plus, when we’re taking care of ourselves, we’re overflowing with positivity that can be shared and passed to others. Taking ownership of our own well-being has profound ripple effects on our families, friends, and workplace.
In my new book, Be Happy Now, I give readers advice for getting out of a discouraging self-talk rut and teach them how to work with their emotions to move past negativity to a positive future. Of course, the first step is to be aware of your environment and your reactions to the world around you.
To get you started on the path to increased happiness, I’ve identified 5 ways to stay positive and avoid stress – even at work.
Stay positive tip #1: Acknowledge yourself every day
Self-realization is a powerful tool. You can begin to recognize patterns in your stress levels by observing and acknowledging how you’re feeling and acting. Ask yourself: Am I having fun? What do I need? As you become more aware of your emotions, begin to acknowledge how your own behaviors are contributing to your feelings of well-being. For example, maybe you’ve been working through lunch every day, or sitting at your desk for 9 hours at a time. These behavior patterns impact your emotions and can have serious consequences on your health, stress levels, and overall well-being.
Start by making small changes. Take time to eat a healthy lunch and leave your desk for ten minutes mid-morning to walk in the fresh air. Acknowledge yourself and your accomplishments. At a minimum, take inventory of your strengths and keep track of your wins – even the small ones. Don’t forget to be thankful for what you’ve accomplished and take the time to acknowledge your hard work and commitment.
Stay positive tip #2: Increase Emotional Intelligence (EI)
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is becoming more important than IQ in the world of business, influencing leadership and employee development. Because we’re moving from the information age to the intuition age, expanding awareness and increasing our emotional intelligence will allow leaders and employees to better navigate the work environment and improve the effectiveness of teams throughout the organization. Emotionally intelligent employees will begin use their increased awareness to better solve problems, effectively manage others, and create a satisfying and cooperative work environment.
When you experience expanded awareness, you can remain curious and learn more about yourself and your surroundings. It becomes easier to not take things personally. High EI allows us to discern, but not judge. We become open to insights to the toughest problems; we begin to catch things before they fall through the cracks. When we expand our emotional intelligence, curiosity, and awareness, we can truly get ahead at work.
So how do you expand your own EI? Start by observing yourself without judgment. Notice when you complain, or when you get upset and what triggers it. Hold yourself accountable for how you react, positively or negatively. Self-awareness and EI go hand-in-hand; you can’t sustain EI growth without more self, and situational, awareness.
Stay positive tip #3: Walk away from toxic situations.
If you are with colleagues and the discussion prompts anxiety, remember that you have the power to walk away or shift the topic. For example, if politically-charged discussions are prompting anxiousness or fear, take control by disengaging or changing the topic.
To understand what might be toxic to your well-being, list your triggers. Acknowledge what’s prompting feelings of uneasiness. Then, realize that it’s okay to disengage when you’re feeling triggered -- whether it’s brought on by watching the news or water cooler gossip -- or something else. Self-awareness gives you the power to realize you’re in a potentially stressful situation and take control over that situation.
Stay positive tip #4: Seek support- or a break.
Who do you go to when you’re feeling stressed? And how do they react? If you are entering relentless “vent” sessions with colleagues, you might be doing more harm than good. Ensure you have a proper support system in place so when you’re feeling stressed, you have an immediate outlet.
Managers can be a great support system during times of work stress, especially if they are meeting employees regularly for one-on-one conversations. When managers acknowledge employees for their hard work, it can help employees feel valued and accepted. Managers have a lot of influence over the level of comfort and safety their teams experience. However, support doesn’t always come in the form of a listening ear. Some people might need 10 minutes in a quiet, secluded room without electronics to recalibrate, while others may feel the need to dance to their favorite music for 5 minutes – wouldn’t that be a fun work environment?
Stay positive tip #5: Go all-in on self-care
One of the biggest benefits of self-care is the ripple effect it can have on those around us. When we are positive, we naturally pass these emotions to others. I recently blogged about how to trust your super power; it all comes down to taking 3 minutes (at minimum) for self-care and retrospection every single day.
Take 3 to 10 minutes daily to sit quietly, breathe deeply, and allow your thoughts to run wild. Then place focus on your breath or a word. Like I explained in my blog post, you might begin to notice sounds, feelings, and thoughts, but let them pass. Then take notes of any insights that come to you during this meditation time, and act on them if you’re feeling inspired.
Taking time for yourself through meditation, exercise, a quick walk outside, or another activity, will ensure you remain grounded and ready to tackle another day, week, or month of work. Taking time for your personal self-care is never selfish. You’re actually giving more to your colleagues and organization when you bring the best version of yourself to work each day.
Bonus: Creating positivity tips for HR and management
As leaders, we have the responsibility within our organization to train and teach employees how to be productive, while ensuring they feel acknowledged and supported. At the end of the day, happy employees lead to happy customers and a better employer brand. You can be an instrument of change in an otherwise toxic environment by focusing on positive performance management, coaching, and stress management. Create points of engagement by listening to what employees want and provide the support to make it happen.
You can also keep your eyes open for signs that stress might be high, such as constant complaining, anger, or less (or unusually more) desk time. Sometimes there are simple fixes. For example, maybe employees need a comfortable room to nap in, or perhaps they need to feel supported to take a vacation where they’re not expected to check email. Simply being an advocate for work-life balance within your organization--and practicing it for yourself-- is a solid first step to keeping stress levels low. You can also lead by example by choosing to remain calm, even when employees are feeling stressed.
We all want to be happy and stay positive-- and stress, over-extension, and discouraging thoughts shouldn’t stand in our way. When we make a conscious choice to embrace fulfillment, even amidst challenges, we can experience more fun, pleasure, and joy. It takes employees, managers, and HR leaders coming together to shift negative thinking, and create safe places of acknowledgement. When employees regularly practice self-care and work-life balance, and feel appreciated by their peers and managers, positivity is par for the course.
Katie B. Smith is a RiseSmart Certified Career Coach. Katie holds her Advanced Corporate Coaching certification from Coach U and a Professional Coach Certification (PCC) through the International Coach Federation (ICF).
Katie believes that seeking to uncover and align with our authentic selves is vital to our becoming the best leaders we can be. And her clients often comment on her unique ability to help them identify tangible goals with personal and professional meaning, allowing them to experience more freedom, higher income, greater business results, and greater peace of mind.