Singing the workplace blues

Use these tips to combat those feelings

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Been in a funk at work lately? Not quite feeling like yourself? In truth, there could be any number of reasons why you feel low. But, if you want to find the source of your melancholy, just take a look around you.

Not surprisingly, stress may be the biggest contributor to your doldrums. For many professionals, there is never enough time in a day. That lack of time, perceived or actual, can make you feel about as productive as a hamster in a wheel.

"Productivity can be an issue for many African Americans," says Lehman Benson III, Ph.D., assistant professor of management and policy at the University of Arizona in Tuscon. "In the workplace, there is often an unspoken pressure to overachieve." This, in part, is because African Americans have to be twice as good as their white counterparts.

Then, there are problems besides workplace pressures that impact your professional life. Since happiness hinges on a balanced life, "the adage ‘leave your problems at the door’ is unrealistic. Pretending they don’t exist won’t get rid of them," says Benson.

It’s also important not to underestimate the effects of nutrition on your emotional state. You should always eat breakfast-even if it’s just a slice of toast and some juice-to give your body fuel. Cut down on your intake of caffeine and sugar. These may give your body a temporary boost, but your energy levels-and your spirits-will inevitably drop again.

So the next time you’re sitting at your desk wallowing in self-pity, concentrate on the following tips. They’ll help you to feel more like your old, happy self:

  • Work on your self-confidence. You’ve nurtured your talents and abilities, so have faith in them. Keeping your focus on being thorough-without being a perfectionist-will relieve some of the on-the-job pressure.
  • Handle your problems. Put your personal concerns on your daily to-do list and give them high priority. You’ll be amazed at how much better life at the office will seem when you’re not carrying around extra baggage from your personal life.
  • Commit to good nutrition. Start making small changes in your diet. For example, "Instead of having a milkshake with lunch, try a fruit smoothie," recommends Benson (for more on nutrition, see "Feeling Sluggish?" Motivation, February 1999).