How to Cope Effectively With Discomfort at Work

How to Cope Effectively With Discomfort at Work

There’s no way to prevent change and the discomfort that comes along with it, especially in the unpredictable 21st century business world. What you can do, though, is learn to be at peace while chaos swirls around you.

When I entered the business world for the first time, I took my Type-A self with me. I was accustomed to executing, perfectly, everything I wanted to do. The thought of my company having a mind of its own terrified me, but I learned quickly that this was the reality. There was so much about Corporate America that I could not control, and I had a decision to make. Was I going down with a stress-induced stomach ulcer, or was I going to become more comfortable with nonsensical approaches and difficult situations?

I took the latter path, but it was years before I could say I was okay when things at work did not turn out the way I wanted them to, or when I was put into situations that made me supremely uncomfortable. Here’s some advice for how you can get to this point faster than I did.

Start One Step at a Time

Many Americans lead unhealthy, sedentary lives because the thought of eating the right things and exercising makes them feel uncomfortable. The prospect of change seems so overwhelming that they avoid it altogether. The thing is, there’s a happy medium. Pick something at work that causes you discomfort and expose yourself to it in small doses. For example, if you don’t like public speaking but your new job requires it, how about starting by speaking up in a team meeting? While you’re doing the test activity, note how you feel and whether anything bad happened as you faced your fear.

Some Problems Aren’t Meant to Be Solved

No matter what you do, if you work in an organization with other people, you will not be able to configure your environment to your exact specifications. So, let go of the notion that you are responsible for ridding the company of its issues, its crazy people, etc. Tell yourself that you are going to do your job to the best of your ability, and that you will relinquish power over situations you can’t control. When you stop railing against the system and realize that some degree of company turmoil is par for the course, you will experience less discomfort and negative emotions in general.

 Most of What We Worry About Never Happens

I once spent huge amounts of time worrying about the past and the future. I worried when something bad happened, and I worried that something bad was going to happen. Then, one day, I visited my grandmother in the hospital. After we talked a while about my anxiety, my grandmother told me that I was wasting energy because most of the things we worry about never come to pass. I decided to do a little experiment. I went home and wrote down all of the things I was worried about. A month later, I looked at the list and laughed. The worrisome things that had occurred were already just innocuous memories, and most of the other things never happened period. My grandmother was right. I was curled up in a ball of discomfort for no reason at all!

Work Will Always Be There

Early in my career, I believed that every work-related decision or scenario was life or death. The truth is, unless you work at a hospital or a firehouse, a mistake is not likely to lead to a truly disastrous outcome. Even if one of your projects completely flops or you don’t meet an important deadline, you’ll probably be back at the office the next day trying again. There are very few things you can do that will significantly impact your long-term career one way or the other, so lose the sense of pending doom.

Failure is the Only Path to Growth

I never liked taking risks until I realized I wouldn’t get ahead unless I plunged in the deep end occasionally. I was always scared, and sometimes I had good reason to be. But one of two things always happened: either the risk turned out wonderfully and catapulted my career to a new level, or it turned out poorly and taught me a crucial life lesson. And every time I stepped out of my comfort zone, my confidence grew – allowing me to tackle the next challenge with greater internal resources.

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  • Susan Graye

    Great article ….thanks for posting.