This month’s question for Soraya came from a woman who runs her own small enterprise. 

Q:How do you protect yourself (and your team) when you are having a bad day?

Soraya answers: Great question, but how do you define what ‘bad’ is? Let’s look a little bit at neurobiology to understand what is going on.

The brain loves to find and work on problems; its basic survival radar goes off all the time to ensure that we are safe. So the moment that we label our day as ‘bad’, unconsciously the brain will put us into a fight or flight mode, taking much needed oxygen and blood away from the thinking, conscious part of our brain to our unconscious, to look for problems and not solutions. Because of this your heart rate increases and the stress hormone cortisol is released, making you feel anxious and under pressure. Your emotions are then picked up by those around you, who begin to feel and behave in the same way. So no one is performing or thinking at their best, and no one is being protected!

It would be naive to say that we don’t have what we perceive to be ‘bad’ days, and that’s just it – it’s how you perceive it to be, which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So what can you do to protect both you and your team?

1. Reframe the day
It could be a challenging or stretching day. It could be a day where you as a team can work together to show how you can find better or learn new ways of dealing with situations. However you reframe it, make it more positive so that you can close down the fight or flight part of the brain, and open up the mind or thinking part.

2. Take a break
Encourage everyone, including yourself, to take regular breaks, preferably in the fresh air so that you get some exercise and down time, and help preserve your energy. Taking yourself out of situations can give you a new perspective as to what is going on, and therefore more ideas on how to resolve situations.

3. Offer regular praise
So that your team feels that they are doing a good job under challenging circumstances, give them regular praise so that they feel appreciated and their hard work recognised, which will lift their mood and support them in feeling more positive. It’s very easy to escalate situations, so ask yourself and your team truthfully ‘will this matter in 3 hours, 3 days, 3 months, 3 years’?

4. Set realistic expectations
It can be tempting to over-promise to calm situations down, which can put more pressure on you and your team to deliver. Be realistic in what you can and can’t achieve and remember you can’t do everything perfectly; after all, what does perfect mean?

If the voice in your head is giving you a hard time, focus on flipping what it is saying so that the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ become ‘can’ and ‘will’, creating a more positive mind-set.

Lastly, as the Greek philosopher Epictetus said ‘People are disturbed not by things but by the views which they take of them’.

Soraya is the founder & director of Springboard Coaching, which specialises in management and leadership development. If you have a business or work-related stress related problem you can’t find the answer to, she’ll be happy to answer on this blog – just comment below or contact us here with your question.

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