5 Ways to Handle Emotional Breakdown at Work

4 minute read

You know how, sometimes, your boss says something that really hits a nerve, or a million other things are going haywire at work, and you decide it’s time to stop by the bathroom stall for a quick little tear fest? Something about seeing your mascara winking back at you on toilet paper feels semi-unnerving (is it all over your face now, too?) yet cathartic. You then head back to your desk because you think you’re fine, but one look at your inbox, and the tears start creeping their way in again. Now you just want to cry because you’re crying.

Next time that happens, let these tips collectively come together as your anti-cry amour. Your keyboard will thank you when it remains oh-so-dry until 5 p.m., after which you can immediately head to a bar and sip away your pain:

1. Breathe, using the 10:10:10 method

When it comes to upsetting situations, you’ve heard to “take a deep breath” since toddlerhood, but here’s the best way to make sure it works on bona fide grown-up problems: Breathe in for 10 seconds, breathe out for 10 seconds, and repeat that 10 times over. “It’s almost like your body has no choice but to calm down, because you’ve given your body that time,” says Alexandra Levit, career expert and co-chair of the Career Advisory Board.

2. Look at (or touch) something blue

Make it water if you can. Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, wrote a whole book titled Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being In, Near, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do about the emotional, behavioral, and psychological benefits of water. In it, he argues that just being close to water, or looking at it or feeling it, can have a calming effect. There’s only so much you can do in the office, but even splashing your face with water or washing your hands can help. Or, just do a Google Image search on “Mykonos.”

3. Squeeze your hand

Activating the pressure point between your second and third knuckle (between your pointer and middle finger) is used in Eastern medicine to relieve stress. “It activates a nerve that loosens the area around the heart, so any of that fluttery feeling you feel when you’re nervous will end up going away,” business psychologist Sharon Melnick told Business Insider. We tried it, and our blood pressure thanked us.

4. Take it outside

Sometimes, the nearest bathroom stall just doesn’t do the trick. Take a few minutes and go outside for some fresh air. “Just having that momentary change of perspective can be enough to calm your head,” Levit says. And if you’re still just ruminating, but next to a Dumpster, walk a few blocks where you can scream—into your arm even. “Whatever you need to do to calm down emotionally, and return to work in a civil manner. There’s no point in getting back to work until you can be productive,” she adds.

5. Make yourself a mantra

And repeat it to yourself, or write it down on a Post-it and stick it to your computer. “Think ‘This too shall pass,’ or ‘If you’re going through hell keep going,’ says Vicki Salemi, career expert and author of Big Career in the Big City. Then, later that night, you can call a friend to vent, or go to a last-minute yoga class to really move on from the situation.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com

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