11 Things to Do When Feeling Grumpy at Work

We’ve all been there — the last straw.

The emails are rolling in, the tasks are piling up, your head is spinning and your calm is starting to crack. The next time the phone rings or a coworker asks for a favor, you feel like you’ll snap.

If you find yourself frequently on edge in the workplace, you’re not alone. As many as 42 percent of Americans cite stress-related irritability, and work is one of the worst places for a sour mood to strike.

But you don’t want your bad mood to alienate your coworkers, offend your boss or affect your productivity. Want to beat the grump factor in the office? Here are 11 ways to calm down and cheer up.

1. Identify the Source

Everyone experiences mood swings every now and then, but if you’re feeling especially crabby, there’s probably a reason.

Maybe you’re overwhelmed with your workload for the week, or your coworker snagged that promotion you were hoping for. It could be that an issue from your personal life is nagging you, or you might still be tired from that late night you pulled last Friday.

When you can’t shake that sour mood, figure out why. Identifying the problem can be the first step toward helping you get out of the slump.

2. Avoid Triggers

When you’re aware of what sets off your bad mood, you can do your best to stay away from the sore spots. If avoidance isn’t possible, try to manage your triggers so they’re less frustrating.

If something like a pending email inbox weighs on your mind, knock it out as soon as you sit down in the morning. If your coworker won’t stop bragging about her engagement ring, while you’re dealing with a breakup, keep a comfortable distance for a bit.

When you control or come into less contact with contributing factors, your grump-level will decrease.

3. Take a Break

Working eight or more hours every day can be enough to cause irritability on its own. No matter how much you love your job, hard work takes a toll, and you can’t always be 100 percent.

When you feel yourself petering out, don’t push on. Overworking yourself will only worsen your mood, lower your productivity and give the grumps to your coworkers, causing a chain of counterproductive work behavior.

If you find yourself in a rut, mentally remove yourself from work for a few minutes. Grab a snack, take a quick trip to the bathroom or plug in your headphones and play your favorite song. Give your brain a breather to cool you down. This helps to refresh your energy while boosting productivity when getting back to the grind.

4. Treat Your Stress

If stress is the trigger for your unpleasant mood, allow yourself a moment of meditation.

Try breathing deeply, stretching your stiff muscles, organizing your workspace or focusing your mind on relaxation. Close your eyes and visualize that trip to the beach. Replay a favorite memory that will make you smile.

When you manage stress at your desk, your mood will change for the better.

5. Get Out of Your Head

Sometimes, being in your head can lead to excess irritability. Maybe you’re overthinking a personal problem or insecurity. It could be that your brain keeps jumping ahead to what you need to get done by the end of the day.

If you find that you’re stuck in your head, focus on someone else for a little while. Ask your supervisors if there’s anything they need, or do a favor for a coworker. When you’re less self-absorbed, your grumpiness won’t have room to take root.

6. Walk it Off

Movement can be the best way to alleviate bad feelings. Even within five minutes, exercise releases endorphins, enhances overall mood and expels nervous energy.

Shake off your sour feelings by getting up from your desk, taking a spin around the office, walking up and down the stairs or stepping outside for a quick breather. Going for a jog before or after work can work wonders as well.

7. Cut the Coffee

We all reach for another cup when we need to power through, but your favorite cappuccino or house blend can actually increase your irritability.

Caffeine is a strong stimulant — it increases alertness, yes, but it also hikes up annoyance, agitation and anxiety. To avoid the negative mood influences of coffee and other caffeinated beverages, try to keep it to a cup a day.

8. Phone a Friend

When you were away at college, feeling lonely, irritated or overwhelmed, who did you call? Your mom, maybe, or your best friend. Sometimes all we need to perk up when we’re down is a few friendly words of support from someone we love.

When you feel your mood morphing into a grouchy monster, step away from your desk and have a quick conversation with someone special in your life. It can be a phone call, a few texts or even a brief venting visit to your favorite coworker’s desk.

You won’t want to leave your desk too often or for too long — keep it professional — but five minutes here and there will help you ease irritability.

9. Focus

If a wandering mind and external issues are the source of your grumpiness, turn off the outside world for a specific amount of time.

Set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes, find a task you want to complete and stay fully focused on only that task until you hear the alarm chime. Shutting out distractions and entering a deep work zone for short bursts of time will improve your mental health and boost your productivity.

10. Put it in Perspective

If you’re indulging in a negative mood, stop and think about the point for a moment.

How will irritability help you? Will it increase your productivity or finish off your daily task list? Will it send positive vibes to your bosses and coworkers?

No. It will only drag you down.

Realizing grumpiness won’t get you anywhere can help you clear your head and shake it off.

11. Be Kind to Yourself

When you’re stuck in a rut, and everything seems to get on your nerves, remember to cut yourself some slack. You can’t be your best all day, every day. Keep in mind that you’re only human, and you’re working hard!

Avoid negative self-talk and punishing thoughts. Trying to encourage positivity and smiling on the job can lift your mood and productivity, but if you’re just not up to par this time, it’s okay. Everyone has bad days.

Ready to reduce grumpiness in the workplace? Found a formula that works for you on your worst days? Help out your coworkers by commenting below and sharing on social media.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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