Keeping Your Balance in Turbulent Times

In the economic turbulence of recent weeks, each day drops a new bomb: historic slides in the market, unprecedented bank failures. Every other conversation seems to revolve around lay-offs, bankruptcies and pending economic disaster, intensifying the sense of anxiety and uncertainty.

All this on top of the stressful events that are already part of a typical high-pressure workweek: a client calling to say they’re pulling out of the deal on which you’ve been working long hours. An unpleasant exchange with a colleague. Or the sinking realization as you dial into a conference call with a client that you misspelled their company name in the letter you sent out late last night.

How do you prevent them from derailing your productivity and eating away at your confidence? What’s your recovery strategy?

In his book, Fight Your Fear and Win, sports psychologist Don Greene, Ph. D says: “The ability to move on – to put a poor judgment, a wrong answer, a weak moment, a physical lapse, behind you instantly – is the thing that makes winners out of the merely talented.” Whether an event was or wasn’t under your control, endless venting and rehashing are nothing but a waste of time and mental energy. Instead, here are five techniques for hitting your internal “reset” button so you can recover and move on in champion style:

1. Use your body as an anchor. When we’re “in our head,” we’re either ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Our body, however, is always in the present – so use it to get grounded. In the aftermath of plans gone awry, stop and feel the soles of your feet on the floor, your fingertips on the computer keyboard. Then, see if you can locate where you’re feeling the impact – a tightness in your throat or chest, a gnawing in your stomach – and breathe into the sensation until it starts to subside.

2. Stick to the facts. Now, back to your head. Whenever an event triggers an emotionally charged response, our egos will hijack the facts and spin them into a dramatic story that incorporates all our negative self-talk and fears of inadequacy. First, parse out the facts in simple Dick-and-Jane language – “The deal did not go through,” or “The Dow is down” instead of “Why can’t I do anything right?” or “We’re heading for another depression.”

3. Set a time limit. Of course, separating fact from your own firmly entrenched fiction is easier said than done. Egos feed off drama and will try to convince you that, if only you go around in circles long enough, you will reach a solution. Don’t fall for that ol’ chestnut; you’re not going to “solve” an emotional response by thinking alone.

So determine a finite amount of time – ten minutes, say – to focus your attention solely on what just happened. Write some stream-of-consciousness thoughts or bullet points and then resolve to put it aside until the emotional heat has subsided.

4. Send in your inner coach. If you find yourself during the day constantly replaying a blunder or imagining a worrisome scenario, ask your inner critic if your inner coach can step in to pinch-hit for a moment. Then, speak to yourself in a kind voice, as if comforting a child, with your own version of: “You did your best,” or “This too will pass.”

5. Keep it in perspective. Yes, there will always be the office sharks waiting to pounce at the slightest sign of weakness but, in most cases, no-one is as hyper-aware of your mistake – much less the harsh soundtrack in your head – as you are. In any case, instead of fixating on what went “wrong,” your energy would be better spent recovering quickly and determining an action plan for damage control, if necessary.

The Bottom Line
What’s done is done. The only thing under your control is what you do next. As winners of every ilk know, the ability to remain poised, resilient and quickly regain their balance is a competitive edge more valuable than never dealing with mistakes or setbacks at all.


  1. GeekMBA360 April 3, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. I really like your blog, and your background is very impressive!

    One “technique” I use when I feel frustrated or stuck was to remind myself that “this is all in my mind. It’s just a single thought that made me have the negative emotion”.

    Just to remind myself of this simple thing (without thinking too much about how to overcome), it allows me to “snap out” of whatever negative state I was in.

    It’s actually amazing effective. 🙂


  2. admin April 3, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks, Bill! Great point that you don’t even have to figure out how to “fix” the negative thought — awareness alone can be enough.


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