Coping strategies

What to do when people make you feel inadequate

Work environments are sometimes the hardest places to be a human. As a human we are imperfect and still growing and we do make the occasional mistake. Making these mistakes in the workplace though, sometimes lead to harsh judgment and critique.

There may be people who will make you feel inadequate for the job at hand. How do you bridge this?

  1. Always remember that everybody is allowed an opinion, but like the old Facebook wisdom rings: A lion isn’t concerned with the opinions of a lamb. See yourself as that lion.
  2. In the morning, or at night before bed, open an empty document on your computer and type at least 5 positive, building affirmations about yourself. I am more than capable. My work is always done to the best of my ability. I am reminded daily of how hard I work. I have 10 years of experience in my field. I am at a senior level for a reason.
  3. Think a little longer about your replies to scrutiny. Sometimes no reply is better than a snippy one.
  4. Remember that nobody can steel your worth. You are worth more than the sum of your mistakes. If that were true, everybody would have to be taken down a notch or two.
  5. If it’s making your life miserable, don’t be afraid to let go. You still have a choice to endure or to get up and leave. Don’t ever feel obligated to keep yourself in a situation that is hurting you, through a false sense of loyalty or the like. Know when to remove yourself from poisonous environments. Be your own advocate and fight to stay happy.

One thing you have no control over is the opinions and actions of co-workers. Your only job is to check your own attitude and make sure you aren’t that poisonous co-worker making somebody else’s life miserable. We’re all just normal human beings trying to make it to Friday :-).

Coping strategies

Taking care

Like losing weight, it is important that you tackle taking care of yourself gradually, so as to form habits that will last. Following a diet or making huge changes to your eating and exercise plans might mean that in a short while you will give up. When I started losing weight I made little changes at a time until they were part of my routine. This way I ended up making a lifestyle change that lasted and today I look back on a much healthier way of living.

Now I stand at the beginning of another lifestyle change: being a 21st century human, I don’t take care of myself as well as I maybe should. To be honest right now I wake up tired, have a headache almost 90% of the time, skip meals when work gets in the way, work way too many hours and I can keep adding to the list until the cows come home. So I’m going to put my money where my mouth is. I’m going to start with small changes until they are part of my thought process and decision making patterns.

How can I start small? Well, I know I respond well to touch, soft words, love and care. So I decided to start by washing my face every night (not just make-up wiping it with wet cloths) in warm water and always following my baths with a lotion massage. This will be my small change. Once I got this down I’ll post again to say what my next change will be. I feel strangely excited about all of it. For the first time in 35 years I’m going to give my body the rest and love it deserves. It’s going to change my world!

If you wake up tired and feel like you are on auto-pilot most of the time, what about making changes in your routine to remedy that? Don’t be content with just surviving. It doesn’t take a month-long holiday in the Amazon or a full spa-day to fix things. Both are expensive and the spa-day fix is temporary. Make a lasting change one step at a time to give yourself the rest you need. And remember to share your ideas. Yours might be the one idea that helps someone else get out of their rut.

Coping strategies

Handling disappointment

Being disappointed because the coffee is finished and you can’t get your first mug of coffee is not what I’m talking about. It’s falling short of a life-long dream or pushing hard for something you want and just missing it.

Recently I had two huge disappointments: I was passed over for promotion at work and we got another negative pregnancy test. I’ve worked really hard in my career for the pivotal moment when I would finally reach management level. I was so sure it would happen this time, but it didn’t. My husband and I have also been trying to fall pregnant. We will be married 10 years in 2015. I was so sure this time was the one. It absolutely tore me apart when the test came back negative.

So Life handed down the two lemons separated by a month. I’d like to think my reaction was pretty standard: I was in denial, I was angry, I bargained with God, I was depressed and I accepted it. But it didn’t happen in that sequence and it didn’t take a week.

When things that feel huge happen to you, there will be many anecdotes telling you to just get up and go on, become a stronger person from it or to learn from the experience and don’t let it get you down. When you are under the weight of it though, the view is different and you might feel like you have no idea how to even start dealing with the disappointment and/or anger inside.

One thing I want you to remember is that you are human. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry, disappointed or sad. It was a huge knock and you are allowed to take time to absorb it. Just remember this: it does not redefine your worth, it didn’t make you worth less than you were before it happened. You didn’t suddenly become a smaller version of yourself and you should not be beating yourself up because a dream failed. So somebody closed a door in your face. So you have to wait a little longer before it finally happens for you. Just the fact that you are still alive proves that you have the strength to pull through this too.

You lived through birth, you lived through primary school, you made it through your teens (or are making it through your teens), you survive in the corporate jungle every day without being eaten by a Boss-ious-terranicus or trampled on by a herd of bleating employees…you have been through so much in your life. This will not be the thing that breaks you. I know you are stronger than this.

Early last week one of my friends posted on Facebook that she is going through a rough patch. I will tell you now what I told her: I believe that when many bad things accumulate in a short period of time, it is Life’s way of opening a period of miraculous blessings. Life is made up of valleys and hilltops. You are in a valley now, but know that your hilltop is coming. It must. It’s the law of Life.

So chin up and don’t stop fighting and hoping for that big dream to be fulfilled. You are worth it.

Coping strategies


My husband and I are watching a Star Trek Voyager episode where Neelix is manipulated by an old friend to do what he wants. The “friend” does it by reminding Neelix of how a “bad person” he used to be and emotionally manipulating him by asking if Neelix would drop an old friend in trouble, that he deserves the same chance at success that Neelix experienced.

All through this I keep on wanting to shake Neelix and tell him: you WORKED to get where you got. It didn’t fall in your lap. You didn’t take shortcuts and through all your hard times, you bettered yourself as a person. Hence your friend being able to say you “USED to be that bad”.

When a person manipulates another, they will invariable push the buttons that will make you feel vulnerable. It may be referring to your old nature, reminding you of a deep fear, playing on your insecurities or even your beliefs.

– What would happen if they find out who you really are. Do you think they’d accept you like I do?
– You call yourself a Christian, but you are willing to let me suffer?
– I see you posted on Facebook about paying for fertility treatments. They are expensive. We don’t have money for power or food till the end of the month.
– You are lucky to have so much in your life. I never got the chances you did.

How do I deal with this?

I know that in the situation of being manipulated, right on the spot, you might fail to understand the situation. It might take a long time and many such instances before you are strong enough to stand up against it.

The most important thing is that you start. Start small. But first, try and understand the following:

  1. You are no less than the next biological, bathroom-using, food-needing person on this planet. We are all just bags of cells that have to perform the same functions to stay alive. Designation, purpose, assignment…none of that gives any other homo sapiens the right to undermine, dominate or manipulate another. In essence, you are worth it.
  2. I almost feel like copying the previous point and pasting it here again. Understand and grasp this: what you think of yourself is a preconception. From today you have one project and that is to become your own best friend. Understand yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses. This will help the next time somebody wants to tell you who you are and what you’re worth.
  3. When you have time, replay a previous moment of manipulation, with one change: be in control. Write it down, play it out, however you wish to record it. In the moment of resisting the manipulation, feel the strength and resoluteness you have to stand up against it. Next time it happens, breathe deeply and try to remember how you felt in the exercises.

It won’t be easy and you might still have a few moments after which you will feel that you could have done better…give yourself the time and space to learn. Learning a new skill is not like with Neo in The Matrix, a simple download and “I can do Kung Fu”. It takes time and dedication, but you’ll get there and at the same time you will gain a sense of self-worth. I repeat: you are worth it.

I leave you with one thought: If somebody is pulling you down, remember, they are there to begin with.

Coping strategies

Long-term stress situation?

Life has ups and downs, but sometimes you might go through a “down” that lasts a bit longer than just a week or so. A deadline, a confrontation with a co-worker or friend, a period of financial strain…these can be stressful, but hardly hold a candle to a prolonged family crisis, a sudden drop in income, a tough long-term project at work demanding more energy and time than a normal situation or strained interpersonal relations with co-workers or a boss.

So where do I start?

First things first, you need to sit yourself down (pretend you’re the parent, trying to talk to your five-year old) and find out how you are currently reacting to the stress.

I had to ask myself how I was reacting to my new job circumstances. I answered this way:

  • Eating less: I’m trying so hard to do a brilliant job, that I forego meals. Not out of choice, but when I do finally realise I am hungry, the day is almost done and therefore close to dinner.
  • Sleeping less: I am getting up earlier and earlier to try and get more and more done.
  • I have more tummy trouble: most possibly related to my new eating habits and inability to realise I need to relax.
  • I’m more agitated: because I’m tired and wound up tighter than a Grandfather clock.

You’ll notice that all my answers were practical. No emotional answer will give you a clear idea of how to handle what you are doing wrong. For instance, saying “I am crying a lot” a good observation, but it isn’t the source of the problem. You might be crying more because you are exhausted, because you are not sleeping well.

Great! Now we have tangible problem areas. Second step would be to work out a way to fix them. Take one problem point at a time and if they are granular enough, you should be able to see the solution easily.

From this analysis I could see that I needed to focus on my meal times, which in effect became my break times. I also made sure to have them away from my desk to stop the temptation to work-and-eat. I get up at 9 to make tea and chat to a friend for 15minutes. 12 or 1 I eat lunch in the Pause area at work. At 1:30 or 2 I get up for tea again and a light conversation about work or life in general. I bought some camomile and chai tea and a good eBook and now spend the last hour before bed reading with a hot cup of my favourite tea.

The result: I am more relaxed at work; I am more constructively busy and actually get a lot more done without having to redo almost everything. I am sleeping better, eating better and now even have time to exercise…I am losing weight and feeling awesome.

The situation didn’t change. The project is still stressful and the deadlines are still tight, but I find myself more physically, mentally and emotionally capable to deal with the day’s stress.

What is your long-term stress? Need a little help? Download the stress-effect chart and strap down that rodeo-bull that seem to be running away with you. Also, if you want to give feedback on how we can better the chart, feel free.

no such thing as a stress-free life

There’s no such thing as a stress-free life?

I’ve decided to start writing this blog, not only because there might be someone who can benefit from it, but also to get myself to pen down the myriads of ways I see people cope with stress and distressing situations. I am learning from so many people around me and would love to share this with you.

In my career, as a fast-paced designer who asks a lot of herself and a freelance business owner I regularly meet people who have peculiar ways of dealing with their stress. For some their ways of dealing with stress is completely successful. For others, there might be need of a bit of tweaking in their efforts. All and all I find myself giggling at some and stand bemused at others. Why not pen them down, even if it only serves as a memoir to myself in the end.

We all know by now that the right amount of stress at the right time can be great. It enhances your concentration and sharpens your senses so that you can perform at your peak for a certain situation. Long-term stress however, can be detrimental to your health. Everything in your body needs balance and it is this balance that better equips you to deal with little stresses and problems during the day. When situations make you stress for a prolonged period of time, not allowing your body the normal ebb and flow of rhythm, it cannot heal itself to make you ready for the next attack. Consequently, over time even the smallest problem will make your cup overflow and nobody around you will know why you are “overreacting”. The truth is, to you, it was just the cherry on the double-dark-chocolate-fudge-mousse cake.

Everything in life has a rhythm. Not only your body, like we mentioned just now, but also life itself goes through tides. You will know that there are happy times and troubled times. On a macro scale we can look at times of peace and war. On a micro scale you can look at relatively quiet times in the office and times with tight deadlines. What has caught my attention is the flow of prosperous times versus problematic times in my life. All aspects from emotional, physical, financial and spiritual life get tested. Sometimes all at once (very stressful times), other times we can handle one problem at a time, fine-tuning our ability to master our ability to handle a certain problem.

You are going through your own ebbs and flows. You are most possibly reading this because you are also looking for ways to handle this tide in your life. All I can say is that it stays a journey. But every journey thankfully has a destination and like a close friend of mine like to say: if it isn’t good, it isn’t the end yet.

I plan to have fun with this. If you have ways to handle stress and would like to share them with me, feel free to post a comment and share it with the world.