Career Expert Q&A: 5 Ways to Avoid a Meltdown at Work

What we can learn from Jet Blue flight attendant Steve Slater

Taylor explains how to keep everything in perspective

Job stress. We’ve all felt it at one time or another. It’s where the expression “going postal” comes from. Well, a new expression that means just about the same thing might get added to popular American lexicon—“going flight attendant.”

A few days ago, Jet Blue flight attendant Steve Slater got on his plane’s public announcement system and told the passengers just how he felt about them—and it wasn’t warm and fuzzy. Had Slater been quietly steaming about work internally, only to have his frustration bubble to the surface at an inopportune time? Or was there a particular trigger that made him come undone? Whatever the case, the incident brings an important topic to the forefront: how to deal with work stress.

BlackEnterprise.com reached out to Dr. Janet Taylor, a psychiatrist in private practice who studies the emotional and economic impact of mental illness.  She gave us a few suggestions for how to keep cool when things get hot.

  • “If you have a job that’s people-oriented,” says Taylor, “mentally prepare yourself for the unexpected every day.” Know that you will encounter several different personalities and people having a bad day, and actively decide that your temperament will remain constant.
  • “Avoid verbal confrontation that’s not aimed at a meaningful goal or some sort of resolution,” advises Taylor. This applies to colleagues as well customers. It’s easy to let things build up from day to day and a discussion can easily become an argument. Guard against this.
  • “Have outlets for blowing off steam,” says Taylor. Identify a person you can talk to or a place you can escape to when you need to decompress. Remove yourself from the situation if you can; step away from your desk or take a short walk.
  • “Practice regular relaxation techniques,” advises Taylor, who also says to try to be aware of how you’re feeling during the day. “If you’re tense, take 10 deep breaths.” Physical activity is another good way to alleviate stress. The membership to that gym you haven’t been to in six months? Start using it again.
  • “Think about the consequences; think about what may happen afterward,” says Taylor. “Think about how tough it is to get a job, especially in economic climates like this one.” It’s usually not worth it to let yourself lose control. “You always have time to make the right decision,” says Taylor.
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