Do you have the motivation and focus of a tired teenager? When you have a bad day at work, do you find yourself wishing you could just curl up in a ball under the desk? Well, you're not alone.1 in 6 of us struggle with mental health and chances are everyone at some time has struggled with staying motivated in the workplace.
Sometimes life sucks and makes us moody at work and when Tim from IT says ‘have you tried to turn it off and on again?’ You want to slam his head through the computer. You're human, it happens and, while Tim probably has it coming, you probably shouldn’t act on those thoughts. You can’t control the twists and turns that life throws at you, but you can control how you react and manage those emotions.
Here are six ways to manage your emotions, stay motivated at work and stop those mood swings so your colleagues aren’t fearfully tiptoeing around you.
1. You snooze you lose: get a life in the mornings
There is nothing more bad mood inducing than falling out of bed late and rushing around with the looming fear of ‘that’ face or the inevitable tut from your boss as they shake their head in disapprovement.
Late again Jonny? Of course your alarm didn’t go off Rob. You know the routine. Getting up late leads to FML moments. Whether you stub your toe on the bed, spill a tin of beans on your shoes, burn your nose with your straighteners or slip over and pour an entire drink over your head - yes, we asked around the office. These things did happen.
If you struggle with setting that alarm starting with the dreaded numbers 6 or 7 - or anything lower than 10 really, if you constantly hit the snooze button and wish your alarm would disappear into the gates of hell until you fall out of bed in a zombie state and you meet today's FML doom - then yep. You're likely to end up in a bad mood.
Instead of starting on the back foot and relying on a gallon of coffee, use your mornings wisely. That doesn’t mean just waking up earlier as Mum would say - you still need your sleep and it's the hours before midnight that count - so start with fixing your evening routine. As the author of self help book The 5am Miracle, Jeff Sanders puts it:
“The best morning routines begin the night before. If you want to wake up early and literally bounce out of bed with enthusiasm tomorrow morning, then you want to make sure you end today in the best way possible.”
Whatever keeps you up late, whether it is ‘just one more’ on your latest Netflix fixation or for that extra pint down the pub - learn your limits and know when to leave. A banging hangover in the morning is not going to help your mood. And when it comes to your TV or Netflix habits... no you don’t need to watch that new release or know this very instant why Clay isn’t listening to the tapes faster in ‘13 Reasons Why’. Or if ‘Better Call Saul’ will ever fulfill your ‘Breaking Bad’ withdrawal cravings - we’ll save you time now... it won’t.
If you don’t get these references then perhaps your weakness is gaming or Facebook and Instagram scrolling. Whatever your evening digital procrastination vice, start cutting down that screen time earlier so you can get to bed earlier and make the most out of your mornings. This one step alone will help you stay motivated at work and curb that bad mood.
See also: How to: stop procrastinating
2. Robots haven’t taken over yet; be human and connect
There is a reason many believe that robots will eventually take over in the workplace. Us humans may be intelligent and capable but we also have a ream of emotions and moods to go with it. But if we manage those emotions and moods, positive or negative, and become emotionally agile in the workplace, they can actually help us to do our job better. Especially jobs that require empathy and emotional experience. The author of Emotional Agility, Susan David explains:
“Our contract with life is a contract that is brokered with fragility, and with sadness, and with anxiety. And if we’re going to authentically and meaningfully be in this world, we cannot focus on one dimension of life and expect that focusing on that dimension is going to then give us a well rounded life.”
Yes, you may be struggling with some stuff right now but so is everyone else. Don’t deny your humanity, accept it and learn to manage it and connect with other humans at work. When you get to work ask how your colleagues are, arrive early enough for a chat about your weekend or natter about your current situation. Say yes to that team lunch. Say yes to that drink at the pub after work. Say...maybe not to that additional drink after and the round of shots - see point one.
The more you accept your emotions as a human being and connect with others at work, the more you will get some level of emotional reward and in turn, get motivated at work. Let’s face it, you probably spend more time with these people than you do your own family. Yes you need to get your work done, but you also need to embrace being human and connect with the people around you - don’t be a robot. Unless it’s a fancy dress day or you’re busting a move at a 90s throwback party - in this case we’ll allow it.
3. Let off steam with your mates
Short term positive experiences can move your bad mood or low level thinking into a more positive place, which helps you feel better. If all you do is work, then you're probably gonna be pretty moody at work. Even if you feel like a zombie when you get home from the office, force yourself to still have a life beyond the mid week TV or online gaming...
If you have the funds then go out for more dinners, catch a film at the cinema, get yourself a theatre ticket or go to more gigs. If budget is an issue and your boss is doing your head in, you could create a good old fashion dartboard with his face on it or fashion your own sumo suits with cushions and print of a boss mask for your mate. Whatever you do though don’t share pics of your antics on social media - your boss may definitely will not appreciate that one.
If you're lucky enough to work for a company with cool perks such as a basketball court or games room then actually make time to do those things and let off some steam with your work mates in your breaks. Just live a little and do more than just work and get that work life balance. The memories and experiences will give you something else to daydream about and you're less likely to feel like work is stealing your life away.
4. Shake your bum and get those legs moving
If the word ‘exercise’ brings on a feeling of dread, and the idea of running, swimming or going to the gym sounds like your idea of hell, then seek out different ways to be active. Just 20 minutes a day or an hour a week can make all the difference. According to HelpGuide.org studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication - but without the side effects, of course.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or a chore. You could go skateboarding, throw a frisbee with your pals, play an escape game or crack your old Wii Fit out - lol, remember Wii Fits? Or just say yes to a bit of dancing down the pub on Friday. Whatever it is, just get moving. How do you think Beyonce keeps her moods at bay? We’ll give you a clue, it’s not through watching Netflix.
5. Have a giggle & gorge on chocolate
You ever heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine? Well, turns out it’s true - not only for your overall health but more specifically for your brain. To top it off chocolate is not only insanely delicious - soz if you’re dairy free - it also stimulates the production of endorphins. Simply speaking, a few giggles and some chocolate will kick that bad mood and sort you out in no time.
You thinking what we’re thinking - aside from a haunting image of a laughing bar of chocolate? Get in! What better excuse to rally the team together at work to reenact the Malteser advert, do some chair racing with chocolate at the finish line or splash out on a chocolate fountain for the next office birthday celebration.
Better yet, if you get disapproving stares you can cite the research and justify all of these antics as an essential HR approved activity for your mental health. Just don’t go too overboard on the treats or you’ll be rolling into work... On the plus side you could play human skittles more easily. Mmm chocolate skittles.
6. Listen to the right tunes
Listening to upbeat music can actually improve your mood according to a study published by the University of Missouri. The study's author, Yuna Ferguson, said:
“It's important not to overthink, "Am I happy yet?" while listening, and instead just allow yourself to enjoy the experience.”
So don't be afraid to turn up the jams when you're feeling low. En route to work or at your desk, stick your headphones on and use music to get you in the right head space. Even better, create a playlist of feel good tunes that you know are guaranteed to give you a boost. There are plenty of ‘feel good’ lists on spotify, but not everyone responds to the same songs.
Perhaps you have songs that remind you of a holiday or festival? Create your own playlist and whack it on whenever you feel a bad mood coming on. Those sounds will bring back those amazing memories. Chances are you’ll instantly feel happier and be on the riding the bus home vibe instead of the omg I hate this office vibe. Just don’t blast it too loud, your Miley Cyrus obsession through tinny distant headphones will rub people up the wrong way and you might risk an argument - not a great idea if you’re already in a bad mood.
Recognise, accept and get those moods in order
We’ve all worked with that colleague that really makes our eyes roll, overreacting to little things or taking their mood out on you. The person that makes you grit your teeth as you mutter numerous insults under your breath you wish you had the guts to say outloud. Don’t be that person. Learn to recognise your own emotions and stop any negative mood swings in their tracks. If you feel like you're about to scream, take a moment. Try out one of the tips in this post, or just get yourself out of the situation and outside if you can to clear your head. Amazing how a bit of perspective and natural surroundings can calm you down. Awww, a squirrel!
If you can hear yourself snapping at your colleagues or actually reeling off your negative inner monologue. Just stop and ask yourself; are they really the problem, or am I just in a bad mood right now? Why is that? And what would make me feel better?
If you often feel miserable at work then consider whether the job itself is the problem. It could be time to consider a career change and learn some new skills with an online training course.
See also: Are you ready for a career change?
If you can learn to recognise your moods early, you can start managing your emotions at work before Tim from IT gets a stapler to the face. A less moody you will not only improve your life, it will improve your chances of getting that pay rise or that next promotion. Namaste.