When your work-life looks bleak, try these techniques to see the bright side

Stress ‒ it happens to the best of us. No matter what stage you're at in your career, chances are that you will get some level of strain from your work-life. In fact, 79% of Brits commonly experience work-related stress, according to a survey by Perkbox. Add that to the fact that only 1% of people say that they never experience stress caused by their job, and it paints a bleak picture of work in the UK.

Whilst working can be stressful, losing your job is often more so. Job searches are notoriously emotionally draining, especially when you have the added pressure of having to find a role fast. No matter how much people reassure you that it will be fine, trying to keep calm and carry on can be tricky.

So, how can you manage your emotions whether you're in or out of work? One solution may be to practise something called self-regulation. In this short and sweet guide, we'll take a look at what that is and how you can use it within your working life. Learning some essential self-regulation skills could help you to succeed.

What is self-regulation?

First things first, what is self-regulation? The simplest way to define this practice is the effort to control your emotions and behaviours so that you can reach long-term goals.

For example, if you're dealing with work-related stress and finding it hard to get a certain project done, you may use self-regulation skills to overcome the issue. Regulating your emotions will enable you to lower your stress and continue with the project easily.

However, self-regulation does not mean ignoring your feelings. Instead, it means accepting your emotions but not allowing them to control you.

We've all made rash decisions when we're tired, hungry, or angry. Those moves don't always best reflect our inner values or long-term plans. Rather than allowing our feelings to dictate how we behave, we can use self-regulation skills to keep in mind the bigger picture. It's all about being more mindful of how our behaviours may impact our future and applying a more thoughtful approach to our everyday actions.

Why self-regulation is important

When you're looking for a new job, you need some resilience to get you through. Sending countless applications and attending interviews is a tough gig.

Luckily, there's evidence that self-regulation can help you to cope. Research from the Journal of Employment Counseling suggests that using self-regulation skills can build resilience and help people to manage the task of finding a new role. The study researchers also found that people who practised this technique had higher levels of well-being overall.

The power of this practice doesn't end there. Further evidence, published in the Handbook of Personality, suggests that self-regulation skills can help with all types of stress.

For example, if you have a major deadline coming up at work, you may be overwhelmed with worry. That kind of emotion can stop you in your tracks and be counterproductive. In that case, self-regulation could help you to gain some much-needed headspace. Tending to your emotional needs means you can manage your feelings.

How to start practising self-regulation

Now that you understand why self-regulation is important, let's talk about a couple of ways you can start using it. Here are two straightforward tactics you may want to try.

Reframing situations

There's good and bad in every situation. For example, if you get sacked, the negatives are obvious: you've lost your stream of income and need to find a new role.

However, there is always a silver lining. Try looking at the positive side of losing your job. You now have the freedom to find a role that's a better fit for you and the space to reassess your long-term goals.

Equally, you may want to completely switch your career path and find something that truly fulfils you instead.

Choosing to see the benefits in any given situation will help you to control your emotional response to it. You can always reframe a situation so that it has a positive twist. When you get into the habit of doing this regularly, it will become a reflex. Whenever you catch yourself getting caught up in the negativity of your current situation, take a moment to stop and try finding five positives about it.


Mindfulness is excellent for your mental well-being in general. When you're struggling with work-related stress, this is one of the best self-regulation techniques you can use.

Let's say you're angry at a co-worker for not pulling their weight. Their lack of work ethic makes your blood boil.

Before you can address the problem, you need to rid yourself of that negative emotion. Mindfulness could help with that. Take 10 minutes to listen to guided mindfulness podcasts. Alternatively, give yourself a mindfulness moment with the help of apps like Calm or Headspace before speaking to your co-worker.

Of course, that's not the only way mindfulness can improve your work life. If you're having a bad week at work or in your job search, you may find it hard to see the positives. Keep a daily diary and write down the things that you're grateful for.

Whilst it seems small, this activity could help you to keep focused on why your career is important to you. Write a list of the reasons that you find your work fulfiling. You'll immediately start to feel more positive and, in turn, find it easier to keep going. 

The takeaway

Keeping steady and staying on track can be tough. However, whatever your current work situation, it's important that you find approaches that work for you.

Learning some basic self-regulation skills is a good start. We've listed two you could use, but there are plenty more out there. Give them a go and see if they help you to de-stress and restore a sense of inner calm so that you can move forward with your career.

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