Take S.P.A.C.E to Manage Workplace Burnout
By: Kathleen Costello, MS, DC
We’ve all been there. Fuming about a situation at work or replaying an interaction over and over causing us unnecessary stress. We spend a large part of our life at work and therefore, it can take a powerful toll on us. Our work can also give a sense of pride, foster camaraderie, and help us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. We can experience a whole range of emotions and feelings when it comes to our professional life. That is why emotional regulation is key. It allows us to recognize and work with the feelings that arise due to the changing nature of many of our workplace environments.
Emotional regulation is also an important antidote to managing workplace burnout. Often when we encounter challenging feelings associated with work, we don’t know how to deal with them. We may bury them, lash out at others, or project them onto other parts of our life. None of this address the issue at hand. A feeling is meant to be acknowledged and proactively dealt with. We may not enjoy the feeling, but we will reap benefits from working with the emotion in order to let it pass with ease.
A helpful acronym for emotional regulation is S.P.A.C.E. Each letter stands for a step in the process of working with your feelings.
P: Physical Check-in
A: Acknowledge & Accept
C: Choose how to respond
E: Engage in Positive Self-talk
When you notice a feeling or mood has taken over, stop. It is essential to pause what you are doing and not push through. Next, check-in with your body. Notice what sensations are arising. You may notice heat, tension, or shorter breathing. If you can recognize any sensations, see if you can acknowledge them and what feeling may be present. For example, ‘oh I’m feeling flushed and hot, I think I am feeling angry because of an email I received from my co-worker.’ Acknowledging the emotion allows it space to be seen and then accepted. The acceptance part can be the most difficult because we don’t like uncomfortable emotions and often launch into a narrative about the whole situation. Accepting it is a form of self-compassion. When we can accept and meet our discomfort with kindness, we have more space to choose how to respond. Lastly, we continue self-compassion by engaging in positive self-talk to help soothe ourselves.
Emotional regulation is a process, and it takes time. Remember to take space for yourself to manage any burnout and use S.P.A.C.E as an easy reminder of how to deal with those pesky workplace feelings when they inevitably arise.