A friend wrote to tell me she’s having a tough day at work. Actually, it’s been a few months where things have felt bad. And she says they just continue to get worse. But despite how crazy her job is making her, at least for now she wants to try to stay at the job.
So her plan is to hang in and push through the days as best she can. But her question to me is “How do I do that? How do I keep my job and still stay sane?” It’s a good question.
Dealing with a tough day at work
Sometimes, the best you can do during these stormy times is look for a survival plan. You’re certainly not going to single-handedly turn things around overnight. So part of the answer is about your mindset (more about that soon) and part is figuring out how to handle the daily “crazy-makers.”
First, it might be useful to be absolutely clear about what you can control for sure. For me, with some exceptions, this explains exactly how much you can expect to control on any given day:
And, as I’m sure you’ve learned by now, even controlling yourself in a job that makes you want to scream can be iffy at times. Still, it’s a good place to start looking for answers.
Now let’s talk about mindset
How we feel depends on two basic things: (1) what we actually have to handle; and (2) the way we deal with this reality. So if you’re having a tough day at work, it’s important to see if you’re also playing a role in the way you feel.
For example, Mary has decided her job sucks and there’s nothing she can do about it. So every day she comes to work braced for the awfulness of the day. And, in fact, she looks for more things to add to her “my job is so horrible” story. Then she and her co-workers get together to “comfort” each other with their latest horrors.
But with that mindset, Mary is going only going to add to her misery. And she will miss out on any very real opportunities to actually feel and retain some of the good moments. Elusive as they may seem, they can be found (or created) even in awful jobs.
Imagine if she came in looking for the good — and for ways to create better moments for herself. Also for her coworkers. Now I’m not saying the job will be automatically wonderful, but with the right mindset, your experience of each day (and what you take home with you) can be a whole lot better.
Getting through tough day at work
Of course, the best mindset is probably “I’m going to find ways to make this better for myself.” Doesn’t mean you always can. And if not, then leaving may be your best option after all. But what if you can?
Some things you might try:
- Find yourself a positive ally at work who you can trust and work with to make things better. Even if just in small ways at first.
- Make a list of the behaviors / policies that drive you most crazy. You can’t fix them all at once. But think about starting with just one and see if you (and your ally) can help change anything for the better.
- Don’t feed the anger you feel. As bad as things may be, you will only feel worse if you let yourself add to whatever is going on by remembering more of the awful stuff.
- In the moment, when something makes you want to scream, imagine pulling yourself away mentally. Just for a few seconds to help bring your own anger down a few levels.
- Think of something positive daily that you can add to your day or to someone else’s. Just doing this one thing every day can help you get through a tough day at work.
- Also, try journaling or maybe even blogging about it (anonymously). Just getting it out that way can often help.
And if none of those work
Prepare some reasons you need to stay ahead of time. When a maddening moment hits, rather than blowing your stack, let your mind see a picture. The baby you love. Paying your rent. Eating real food. Or, although not exactly a reason, just a beautiful place you love to visit that brings you calm.
Not that any of those are reasons for you to be miserable day in and day out. But just for now, the goal is to get through the “tough day at work” moment. You can think about next steps later when your head is much clearer.
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