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  • BONUM Staff

Become a Coping in the Workplace Champion

Almost a year into the pandemic and we’ve dealt with a strained health care system, working and learning from home, massive job loss, national protests, and election stress – leading to crisis fatigue. We are not equipped to deal with prolonged periods of substantial stress, as our defensive mechanisms, the fight or flight response, happens in short bursts. Chronic stress can even alter our body's chemical balance.

Curling up with a favorite blankie while thumb sucking is common coping behavior for children, but as adults we tend to hide how we cope and rarely discuss how to cope in the workplace. With the stresses of today, now is the time to be intentional with developing coping strategies for work.

Emotion-Focused Coping addresses feeling as they are experienced to reduce stress and gain perseverance. They are critical in processing situations that cannot be changed. Emotion-focused coping skills involve interventions that help you feel better and/or offers a temporary distraction so you can return to the issue feeling more level-headed. Here are two tools to help you build emotion-focused coping skills:

  • Mood Booster List details work appropriate activities that you enjoy doing and make you happy. When you start to feel down, do an activity on your list for a dopamine rush to boost your mood. Work appropriate mood boosters include: breathing exercises, stretching, walking around your office space, doodling, reading a book, listening to music, watching a TedTalk, messaging a confidant.

  • Calm Down Kit is a drawer or box filled with items that engage your senses. When you are anxious, angry, or overwhelmed by a situation, a calm down kit helps you reground yourself in present. Items for your kit can include: a stress ball or other fidget toys, fragrant lotion, aromatherapy or essential oils, meaningful photographs, gum or candy, your favorite brand of coffee or tea.

Even if you don't feel like using your mood booster list or calm down kit at first, taking action can help you feel better which allows you to process the situation from a better state of mind.

Problem-Focused Coping empowers you to take appropriate control of and change a situation, in situations that can be changed. At times discomfort is a sign of a deficiency or dysfunction in the environment. For example, if you feel overwhelmed by a project that requires advanced skills or resources, you may need additional training or support. If you are being harassed or bullied, the situation may need to be addressed by leadership.

Problem-focused coping skills are strategies that help reduce the source of stress. Here are a few ways to develop problem-focused coping skills: start the problem-solving process (i.e. define the problem, pose possible solutions); make a pros and cons list; create a to-do list; establish healthy boundaries; ask for advice or help.

Step by Step Instructions: How to Cope at Work

Be proactive in mental wellness by routinely exercising, eating a balanced diet, sleeping soundly, connecting socially, and asking for help. 

Step 1 Label Your Feelings by asking yourself - Am I feeling sad, frustrated, angry, confused, etc.?  What triggered the feeling(s)? 

Step 2 Select Your Approach by asking yourself - Do I need to change the situation, change how I feel about the situation or both? (remember, problem-focused coping is only effective in situations that can be changed). What would help me feel better right now?  

Step 3 Acknowledge Negative Emotions as you cope. Feeling angry, sad, or scared are a part of the healing process. Suppressing negative emotions can compound issues while holding onto them can leave you stuck in a bad mood that interferes with your ability to function. 

Step 4 Use positive reinforcement with positive self-talk as you cope (e.g. you’re taking deep breaths, nice job calming yourself down) and practice self-compassion when you make a mistake (e.g. breaking an object out of anger or opting out of something you wanted to do because of nerves).

Step 5 Ask Why once you have moved past your initial reaction and can more objectively approach the situation.

In post-care, continually evaluate strategies to reaffirm their effectiveness and add to your tools. Watch out for escapism, as any coping strategy can become unhealthy if overused. Sharpen your skills, so you feel better equipped to deal with discomfort in the future.

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