How to Handle Emotions When Navigating a Toxic Work Environment

Illustration of a sad woman being crunched down and engulfed in dark, muddy colors symbolizing negative emotions

To get back in charge try a simple exercise and then yourself  three questions

When emotions run high due to experiencing a toxic environment at work, the best thing to do is to take a conscious and intentional pause. Pausing might seem passive and highly ineffective, but I invite you to consider its benefits before jumping to conclusions.

According to my research and practice, the best thing to do when experiencing a dense, confusing, incoherent environment is to allow ourselves to retreat to feel our emotions and recognize our feelings and mental narratives. One of the reasons is that when we experience anger, frustration, fear, and doubt, our brain’s management center located at the prefrontal cortex, which helps our judgment, focus, and impulse control, tends to shut down, making it hard to remain connected to our inner wisdom and more prompt to jump into conclusions that distort our perceptions and lead us to reactivity.

Under the influence of strong emotions, which, according to Dr. Candace Pert, are neurotransmitters that inform our organs and systems, like the nervous system, that prompt flight and freeze mode, we are surviving, not thriving. We are going through a “trance” that diminishes our ability to make sound judgments and decisions that will impact our quality of life and well-being.

When we pause and connect with the emotions in our body, feelings in our mind, and thoughts, we are doing the most conscious thing we can do to authentically help us regain clarity because pausing to attend to our inner world helps us restore clarity and this is precisely what we want so we do not act based on the effects of the chemicals our brain produces when experiencing strong emotions that affect our cognition, physiology, chemistry, hormones and more.

After taking a conscious pause and allowing ourselves to regain clarity, we can make decisions aligned with our highest truth instead of the primitive brain that reacts in survival mode, taking from us the possibility of choosing what is best for us, others, and our environment.

I suggest you try this simple exercise:

  • Pause, retreat, and take two deep breaths. Allow yourself to deeply connect with the inhalation and exhalation from beginning to end without rushing. Try to dissolve your mind by engaging with the in and out of air.
  • Once you pause and breathe, invite your attention within. Closing your eyes helps since your senses will focus on your inner world without distractions.
  • After a few seconds or minutes, you will notice that your body starts to relax, and your mind will follow.

Then, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What emotions are present right now.? To connect with your emotions, mentally scan your body from top to bottom and name the physiological sensations you encounter. This will help you bring to the surface these energies (emotion=energy in motion) that are causing you anger, frustration, doubt, etc.
  2. What feelings are present right now.? After you pause and breathe and connect with your body, you will use your cognition to recognize, name, verbalize/express your mental experience. For example, I see anger, frustration, doubt, confusion, fear, etc. This step is crucial to go to the next level: self-regulation.
  3. What mental stories or narratives are present now.? When you can identify the narrative, you will be able to choose to give power to those ideas or simply observe them. When you become the observer of your experience, you are in control.

What follows is self-regulation. You are now in charge, can make sound decisions, and take conscious action. If you skip this valuable process, you are acting out of fear and miss an invaluable experience that leads you to be emotionally mature, evolve, and live from your highest self.

We are in this world to help humanity evolve, but we must be willing to do the work; this is the ultimate goal of life.

Related content:

Why Do We Repress Our Emotions At Work?

Small Business Leadership and Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace

What Kind of Under Stress Boss Are You? 4 Stress Behaviors


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