Boosting your emotional agility can make you happier at work

- Mindfulness

by Luke Doyle

We spend a lot of time talking about agile software development, but agility and responsiveness to change affect a lot of other parts of our lives. What about optimizing our emotional agility?

Should you expect to be happy at work? There’s the argument that if we were meant to be happy at our workplaces, we wouldn’t need to be paid to go to them. But we spend too much of our time there every week to be unhappy there. However, even the happiest of jobs come with stressful situations that can lead to negative thoughts, which can have a huge impact on you and your ability to be productive.

Stress is estimated to cost the US economy $500 billion every year. It’s clearly an issue that we all need to address. But how can we protect ourselves from the negative emotions that work can cause us to feel? One way is to develop our own emotional agility, says psychologist Susan David.

She defines emotional agility as “a process that enables us to navigate life’s twists and turns with self-acceptance, clear-sightedness, and an open mind.” She has identified the three steps of bouncing back from difficult times:

  • Showing up – Dealing with difficult thoughts rather than trying to ignore them
  • Stepping out – Dispassionately identifying and observing your negative thoughts
  • Moving on – Leaving the negative thoughts behind rather than dwelling on them

So what ways are there to achieve this in your day-to-day working life? Here are some techniques that you can try:

Emotional Agility Step #1: Acknowledge that these thoughts aren’t helpful

First of all, you need to be able to identify the negative thoughts as being just that and understand that they aren’t helpful. They aren’t there to teach you anything or help you grow, they are just going to cause you problems, so you need to be able to let go of them.

Emotional Agility Step #2: Get motivation from the situation

Times of trouble bring on negative feelings, but they do also represent opportunities to triumph over adversity. So instead of focusing on the bad parts and the stress, set yourself new goals that you can work to achieve and turn the situation into a positive.

Emotional Agility Step #3: Go for a walk

When your mind is troubled, one of the best things you can do is focus on your body instead. Doing this draws the energy away from the emotions that are weighing you down, so taking a walk around the office or getting outside for some fresh air will make you feel better.

Emotional Agility Step #4: Breathe deeply

Difficult situations at work often require you to take a moment to compose yourself before responding to a colleague or customer. The old cliche is that you need to count to ten, and you might be surprised to find out that it really does work, especially if you take deep breaths while you count very slowly. By changing the patterns of your breathing, you can change your emotional state too.

Emotional Agility Step #5: Try visualization exercises

You might not have tried visualization before, but it has been linked with laying the mental groundwork to help you bounce back, so try imagining yourself as calm and happy and you will find that positive feelings will come your way.

These techniques all offer ways to improve your emotional agility so that you will be more able in the future to recover quickly from stressful situations at work. If you want to get ahead in your career, this is an essential skill as it will show that you are resilient and reliable under pressure, with the added bonus of making you happier in your daily working life.

Try them out and see which ones best help you to cope with work’s up and downs.

Photo: Larisa Birta (Unsplash)

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