ATD Blog

How to Keep Calm When It’s Crazy at Work

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

In the past few years it’s been pretty hard to avoid the saying “Keep Calm and Carry On”—or any of the adaptations to the now infamous phrase. We’ve seen the original meme plastered on social media posts, t-shirts, coffee mugs, bumper stickers, and countless other creative placements. While the statement holds much merit, it also can be lumped into the “easier said than done” category. 

When things begin to get out of hand at work (assignments, projects, quotas, and deadlines mount up), there are many tangible practices you can use to help keep you from screaming—or bringing that work-related stress home with you. 

Be Your Own CEO 

First, you must remember that the mind has a powerful way of playing tricks on us. The stresses in your life are many times created, manipulated, and exaggerated by your own mind. External circumstances and demands are, and always will be, a part of the human experience. It is how you adjust, adapt, and cope with those demands that dictate the stress levels we place upon ourselves. 

How you manage your emotions has a direct correlation to the feelings of stress that you allow to hover over you on a daily basis. In essence you must become your own CEO (chief emotional officer). 

As unfortunate as it may be, when you are stressed, anxious, or overworked, the typical tendency is to respond to these situations through reactive states of fight or flight. But what are we fighting or flying from? All too often, the situations that fuel anxiety and stress are out of our control. It may be awaiting the decision from a boss or client, or anticipating communication from a less then cooperative vendor. Regardless of the issue, the only thing you (as an individual) should concern yourself with are the tasks and responsibilities you can take ownership of and have control over. 


Take care of your business and allow everything else to fall into place as it will. In other words, “Que Sera Sera.” 

When feelings of stress begin to rise, take notice of how your body and mind reacts to those stresses. You’re not a robot, so take time to become self-aware and learn how to emotionally cope and dissolve a stressful mind. Here are a few tips on how to productively combat stress before it turns you inside out. 

Control What You Can Control. There are plenty of intangibles above or out of your control. But, what about attending to the daunting overload of work that typically comes with most professions? 

  • Don’t be taken off guard. Similar to a hurricane, there is usually a lull before you are bombarded with stressful amounts of projects or tasks. See the trends that occur before work starts to mount up. Understand when work typically begins to spike, so you can be prepared when it does. In other words, batten down the hatches and prepare to fight the storm.
  • Remain or become organized. Instead of haphazardly approaching each new week at the office blindly, start your week off by coordinating a plan and schedule for the ensuing week. Keep your tasks organized, so you’ll have time to appropriately react when the unexpected peeks into your schedule. 

  • Perfection is a flaw. Projects and assignments should never be rushed or thrown together for the sake of meeting a deadline, but combing through each detail finding reasons why it isn’t good enough to submit is a set back in both time and peace of mind. The minute you start accepting the notion that each project is not going to be completed to perfection, you’ll have a better grasp of knocking out each project, and smoothly transitioning to the next. 

  • Seriously… Stop Procrastinating. When you’re stressed—and coinciding with the reaction to take flight—you may find yourself shifting to actions of procrastination. This can take many shapes, whether it’s escaping to a break room, making unnecessary phone calls, or just staring blankly. When it’s time to dig in, log out of Facebook, and remember you can check your Instagram feed and Fantasy Football lineups later. Get to work. It’s amazing how quickly you can flow through projects when the effort is initiated. 

Personal Coping Methods. When dozens of highly successful professionals were asked how they cope with stresses at work, the common thread to all of their answers resided in not what they do in the office, but outside of it. Here are a few suggestions for decreasing stress levels on a daily basis. 

  • Diet. A decline or an extreme spike in blood sugar can both accelerate stress levels in the body. Consuming healthy, wholesome foods and drinks whether in a time of crisis or calm, helps the body to naturally function at its optimal level. The body and mind require balance. Do not starve yourself or over consume large quantities of food. Appropriate size meals eaten routinely keep blood sugar levels balanced and the mind focused. Herbal teas, spices, and super foods are excellent ingredients for naturally helping the body balance itself. Be weary of high consumptions of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.

  • Exercise. The power of exercise is obviously known, but many times underrated. Try it out for yourself. When you start feeling stress building up from work related events or otherwise, get moving for 20-30 minutes. Concentrating on your body’s physical movements helps you stop the spin cycle going on in your brain. A release of endorphins produced by exercise, is the natural feel-good remedy for an overworked brain. Exercise also helps you sleep more soundly, another key facet to decreasing stress. So find an aerobic or cardio activity you enjoy, or at least tolerate, and get moving.
  • Use Your Support System. It may feel like it at times, but you are not the first person to feel intense amounts of pressure or stress. Rely on people around you. Don’t feel ashamed to reach out for advice, or to simply vent your concerns and worries. Putting yourself in a place of vulnerability, and being able to express that you’re going through a tough time, is one of the most courageous things we can do as people. Lean on your friends, family, or mentors—especially the ones who you know are good listeners. 

Crazy times happen in everyone’s career. Learning how to keep calm and manage them will benefit your body, you mind, your work, and your relationships.
Share your strategies to "keep calm” at work in the Comments below. 

About the Author

Malati Marlene Shinazy, M.Ed. is the founder of Pacific Leadership Consultants, facilitator of 4 Key Success Factors of High Engagement Organizational Cultures, author, and popular conference speaker. She works with successful organizations to build strong internal cultures by developing leaders their employees want to follow, managers with people skills that motive employees to meet their goals, cohesive teams that are fun to work in, and diverse employees who contribute varied points of view. Contact Malati via or [email protected]

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