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How to stay positive when shit goes sideways.

We all have those days. You know the ones.

The “nothing-is-going-right-I-hate-my-life-banging-my-head-on-my-desk-stay-away-from-me-today” kinda day.

Sometimes it stems from something already going on at home, which then snowballs into a crappy day at work. And sometimes it is sparked by something unfortunate at work, either from a coworker or customer. 

Whatever the trigger, you now find yourself oozing negativity from every pore, sitting angrily at your desk seriously questioning whether voodoo dolls actually work and if you should poke your eye out with a fork (metaphorically, of course).

While you may think your cyclone of doom is contained within your desk area, the ripple effects are felt throughout the office, and surprisingly, your entire life. Negativity is contagious and will affect coworkers and customers, causing feelings of mistrust, unhappiness, and lack of focus, which leads to a toxic workplace and a decrease in profitability.

Not only that, but outside of work, negative thoughts impact your own actions and behaviour in a big way, right down to what you think about yourself and who you are. 

Dr. Shad Helmstetter wrote a wonderful book titled What to Say When You Talk to Your Self. 

“An individual’s attitudes will either propel them towards victory or bog them down in defeat.”

In it, his studies conclude that “attitudes, directly and indirectly, affect everything we do. An individual’s attitudes will either propel them towards victory or bog them down in defeat.”

His fascinating research proves that external influencers, such as a crappy situation at work, are things that you shouldn’t allow to impact who you are. Creating positive self-talk in a negative situation can internally alter your belief, attitudes, and psychology. 

Armed with the knowledge of how powerful positivity can be to yourself and the people who surround you, everyone should learn how to shift their perspective when faced with a negative situation. 

It may not always seem so easy to do, but here are some ways to change how you deal with those inevitable shitty situations.

Change your voice.

You know the voice. That one in your head. The one that has probably been saying things like this:

“This sucks.” 

“Why does this happen to me?” 

“I can’t seem to get anything right”

“I can’t get myself organized.”

“I’m not good at this.”

“I hate talking to that customer.”

Your mind, if it hears those things enough, has no choice but to believe them. It causes a spiral of negativity you can’t escape. Instead, when you hear that voice, change it to things like:

“Roadblocks don’t bother me.”

“I can accomplish anything I set my mind to.”

“I’m going to find a solution.”

“I’m getting better every day.”

“I’m determined to get this done.”

“That customer needs my best advice, even if they don’t take it.”

“I feel confident that I’ve done my best work.”

Stop making excuses.

“I’m too busy.”

“I have other customers I’d rather work with.”

“God, that guys an asshole.”

“I don’t have enough time in my day.”

These excuses are prime breeding ground for negativity to sneak in. Stop making excuses, and start focusing on what you can accomplish. Change your perspective in these difficult situations to what you can do, not what you can’t do.

“I’m busy, but I can get this done today.”

“It’s a difficult client, but I’m not going to let their negativity affect me.”

“I’m going to ask someone to help me with this.”

“I’m going to focus on one thing today that makes me feel accomplished.”

Talk to people.

It would be naive to think that even if the complaining stopped and we all used positive self-talk, that things still don’t get to you. Some days, you just need to vent and let it all out.

Find a great coworker or friend who won’t add on to the negativity and who won’t commiserate with you, but instead, someone who will listen. Someone who is outside your situation can offer perspective, and possibly offer ideas that will attack the situation from another direction that you hadn’t thought of in your rage-y state.

Change your environment.

Okay, so some days we get off a call, back from an exceptionally hard meeting, or read a rather rude email about a mistake we made. And we just can’t shake off the negative impact it’s had on our day. Instead of stewing about it, shake things up. 

Leave the office for a walk. Call your BFF and talk about shoe shopping. Find a dog to pet. Go grab that favourite grande, non-fat, extra-hot, no foam, five-pump, chai latte. Make a lunch date with someone. 

Once you step outside of your situation, it makes the problem seem much smaller than it actually is, and offers some clarity about how to come back and attack the situation.

Just laugh.

I love this one. It’s helped me face many difficult situations and is my personal go-to when I need to shake off a bad vibe. Find someone to laugh with. Tell them what happened, find the humour in it, and you will find yourself moving on in no time.

Make fun of yourself, make fun of the bad meeting. Chances are there is a way to turn things around, and finding something humorous will change how you feel.

Did you know that just the act of forcing yourself to smile or laugh actually changes things physiologically within your body? Laughing and smiling, even if fake, releases endorphins and increases blood flow, lowers your heart rate, and is actually proven to reduce stress and pain. It’s like your own little miracle negativity cure.

In conclusion.

Life isn’t a giant love-fest. I get that. There are ups and downs we can’t control. Some of them are major earth-shattering things. Some of them are minor problems in our workday. The fascinating part of the equation is that it’s proven that we have complete control over how we deal with each situation, big and small.

You can create your own negative life, or your own positive one. You choose.