What To Do First When Fear Hits Your Workplace
by Dr. Rhoberta Shaler
Money's tight. The economy is changing. You hear that layoffs are coming. Someone is called to the supervisor's office. Word travels through the workplace. Fear creeps in.
It's like the jungle or the savannah. They say that, in times of drought, the animals down at the watering hole look at each other differently. Are folks looking at each other differently at your water cooler?
Your body has a mind of its own. When it senses fear, it immediately goes into a protective mode. Your shoulders move towards your earlobes. Your digestion slows down. You become hyper-vigilant. Your hands and feet become cold as the blood rushes to protect vital organs. When this happens, the blood also leaves your brain. In fact, it first leaves the frontal lobes. Not great as their job is associated with reasoning, planning, parts of speech, movement, emotions, and problem solving. Great! Just what you need is the first to go!
Knowing this, then, it is imperative that you 'keep your head about you' in tense times. You need to keep your cool when the sharks and circling, and the wolves are at the door. Easy to say! Fortunately, not so difficult to do. Here are some suggestions--no, really, imperatives--for triumphing in tense times.*
-------------------BE POSITIVELY SELFISH---------------------
Take very good care of yourself. This is important at all times, however, it is essential in tense times. Do these five things every day, without fail:
1. Often throughout your day, breathe deeply in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth five times. This is the best mini-vacation on the planet. You'll notice that your shoulders naturally relax as you exhale through your mouth. The increase of oxygen to your brain is also appreciated.
2. Go for a walk for, at least, thirty minutes each day. Breathe well and relax your body. This is a time to enjoy the beauty that you see. If you are walking in nature, see it there. If you are walking on a city street, see it in the people you meet. Find it. If your mind begins to race, do #1 above and re-focus on what you are seeing.
3. Put your personal affairs in order. Clean your office, your space, your home, your closets. Doing things over which you have control is calming. Take back overdue library books. Pay fines. Return borrowed items. Write that letter you've been putting off. Make a will. Organize your finances.
4. Focus on your goals. What do you want to have accomplished one week, month or year from now? What are your plans for achieving these goals? What can you do pro-actively right now to move forward? Again, take control of what is in your control. This is important.
5. Eat nutritious foods. You know this and your mind will play tricks when you are tense. What you think of as comfort foods may be just the things that increase your discomfort. Sugars, for instance, seem comforting, however, they can contribute to a feeling of depression. Not so helpful during times of stress!
Sure, many folks think that coffee keeps them going when things are tough. It may give them that illusion. Coffee is not only a stimulant but also a diuretic. That means it is taking vital water from your cells just when you need it most. It creates tension…and the desire for another cup! Not so good.
Attentive is desirable. Hyper-vigilant, not so much. But, it is easy to become hyper-vigilant when fearful in the workplace. This is a natural response to high-stress or trauma. It occurs when some fear, trauma, or drama captures your emotions and hooks into your deepest concerns, expressed or unexpressed. Once one thing has happened, there is a heightened expectation of more to follow. Everything looks like a threat. It's living in that state of waiting for the other shoe to drop.
So, how do you become conscious, attentive to what is happening in your mind and body avoid responding with hyper-vigilance? When something happens that could be construed as an indication of a problem, say, you see two colleagues chatting quietly together, ask yourself a few questions:
• If lay-offs were not an issue, would this behavior seem problematic?
• Am I labeling or judging this behavior inappropriately?
• How am I intensifying the fear by my reactions and behaviors?
• Am I doing anything that might be causing others discomfort?
This will help you adjust your perspective to maintain balance. Be attentive to your own behavior. When you focus on what you can contribute rather than what you fear, several benefits follow. You are calmer. You help others feel more settled. Your focus makes you more valuable in the workplace. You stay conscious of the bigger picture. You are more circumspect. You become a leader!
Keep your head up out of the sand. Be aware of the realities of your current situation and plan for them realistically. If your first reaction is panic, set aside an hour to just worry, or, better yet, just five minutes. Get it out of your system. Worry really well and use that time fully.
Then, look turn your attention to the bigger picture. Look for actual evidence in reality of the truth of the situation, not the fear in the situation. Then, adjust your attitude and perception accordingly. Only then can you make the best plan for yourself.
Read magazines from your industry. What are the trends? What are the needs? What is the accurate picture? Then, respond. Do you need more training? Is re-location an option? This would be a good time to assess your goals and focus on your next steps.
Talk with others in your field, preferably, those in charge. Ask your questions. Clarify the intentions of the organization. Ask how and if your position is likely to be affected. Don't wait to be a result. Take charge of what you can.
Your life is too important to live in fear in your workplace. You have goals. You have skills. You have direction. You have a voice. Take charge of fear. You know that you are the only person who is responsible for your responses to life. Choose responses that support you. Too many people fail to step up to the plate in their own game of life. Step up! Be positively selfish, attentive and pro-active.
• Want to triumph in tense times?
My ebook, Prevent Free Fall: Pack Your Own Parachute - Timely Tactics for Taming Tense Times, gives you the clarity, focus and skills you need to know you are doing all that you can to help yourself during tense times, with tense teams. Website: TamingTenseTimes
Rhoberta Shaler, PhD Psychologist. Consultant. Coach. Catalyst. Helping Businesses Prosper & People Flourish
About the Author
A well-respected psychologist, speaker, consultant and coach, she works with organizations that know their people are their top resource, and with enlightened leaders who know that building relationships must be a top priority.You can get ongoing insights, information and inspiration for Taming Tense Times by becoming a member of www.TamingTenseTimes.com now