The cumulative effect of a stressful two years is real for us, our family members, and our clients and colleagues. It’s safe to assume that most everyone we work with, as well as those we serve, are carrying some amount of weight on their shoulders that impacts their daily interpersonal interactions. You may find that you or those around you are short-tempered or easily frustrated.
These time-tested approaches can help us effectively manage ourselves during interactions with others:
- Be prepared: During times of back-to-back meetings or client interactions, use 30 seconds to take full, deep breaths and relax tense muscles. This will help you stay in control of your own emotional reactions and reset your mental state.
- Express empathy: By letting others know you understand their distress, you promote a sense of personal connection and down-regulate emotional reactivity. When helping others, use their first name occasionally. This makes the verbal exchange feel more relational rather than transactional, reducing the risk the individual will feel like a “thing” in the “system.”
- Stay in charge of you: While it’s not easy in the heat of the moment, staying in charge of you so is the most important strategy when faced with stressful situations. It’s tough to think one’s way into emotional self-regulation. The thinking brain is no match for the feeling one. Instead, use your physiology, which is where emotions manifest. Assume a confident, grounded posture, maintain eye contact, relax the jaw, and take full, deep breaths. These steps quiet the emotional reactivity in the brain.
- Withhold judgment: Remind yourself that you don’t know all the factors that contribute to an individual’s state of mind. Assuming positive intent will go a long way toward reducing your stress and theirs.
Despite one’s best efforts, some situations won’t go as well as you had hoped. Apologize when necessary, be gentle with yourself and seek support from others when you need it.