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Before Workplace Stress Creates a Meltdown

melting stressRemember Steven Slater, the Jet Blue flight attendant who quit his job by jumping down an emergency escape hatch, beer in hand about five years ago?

If the internet buzz and water cooler conversations were any indication, Slater was the everyday-working-man’s hero and a cult sensation for a while.  Everyone, it seemed, was living vicariously through Slater wishing secretly they could jump out of their jobs the way Slater jumped out of his.

For a little while, I imagine, employees everywhere dared to dream of the exhilaration and sense of freedom that must come from being able to get on an intercom system and vent about your company, your boss, your co-workers and / or your customers…before making a grand exit.

Many were thinking..”Wow! How empowering that must be.”

That is, until you wake up the next day and like the characters in the movie The Hangover, you try to retrace your steps and figure out what really happened. Yes, of course the world might on your side during your 15 seconds of fame, and that may make you feel really good. Then slowly it might set in… I don’t have a job AND now I have a very public, not-so-nice reputation in my own industry … making it hard for me to go back to the work I claim I love.

So I thought that while we continue to live vicariously through Slater and others who up and quit their jobs in grand style, we should have our own escape hatch at work.

You might find any little activity like these may be all you need to do to gain some perspective.

The goal of course is to find out what works for you in those tiny moments when bad judgment, if unchecked, could get the best of you.

Here are some possibilities for when workplace stress is getting the best of you:

Enjoy a treat

Go get an ice cream cone or yogurt or something “not-so-good-for-you.”  Sometimes all we need is a taste of childhood to feel adult again.

Have a buddy at work

Someone you can rely on who will talk you down off the ledge. A quick phone call or hallway meeting may be all you need.

Connect to your reality

Keep a copy of your child’s college tuition bill taped inside your top drawer. An orthodontics or summer camp bill could work as well as a mortgage statement or a photo of the new car in your future. Whatever your motivation, now is the time to remember it.

Take a few minutes, and go outside if you can

Go sit in your car. Listen to your favorite station – Music, sports or talk radio. Whatever floats your boat! Just get out of the situation and change your surroundings.

Engage your glass curtain

Finally, as my mother would say, and this has worked for me in the past, pull down your glass curtain, squeeze your toes in your shoes…and release. Aaahh! No one but you will know that you just took a mental vacation.

I caution you, of course, that this is not a long term solution and unchecked workplace stress can cause irreparable damage. Steven Slater learned that first hand. 

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