How can I stay optimistic even though my workplace is chaotic?

General, Work & School / Monday, March 26th, 2018
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Hey, Alana!

There is a lot of transition happening in my workplace right now. The long-time staff isn’t adjusting well, which is causing me to feel overwhelmed and discouraged.

How can I stay optimistic in the midst of this chaotic environment?

Hey, there!

It can feel impossible to stay optimistic in the middle of a tense and chaotic work environment. It’s even harder when your coworkers aren’t keeping it together either.

The good news is that there are things you can do to keep your spirits high.

Here are five tips to help you cope:

Tip #1: Focus on what you can control.

Unfortunately, you can’t control how your coworkers choose to react to the transition. The best (and only) thing that you can manage is yourself and how you decide to handle the situation.

For example, maybe you have an office with a door. If you’re finding that the chaos of your environment is affecting your productivity, don’t be afraid to shut your door for a little while to help you focus. I know it can feel a bit awkward and rude-ish, but it’s essential for you to prioritize your sanity and ability to get your work done.

Here are some other things that you can consider:

  • Take a lunch break or try to get out of the office for at least 15 minutes each day.
  • Don’t engage in office gossip (more on this next).
  • Write down inspiring quotes on sticky-notes and place them where you can see them often.
  • Check-in with each morning. This website will give you a boost of positivity to start your day!

Tip #2: Steer clear of office gossip.

This is the most crucial step (but also the most challenging). Often when tensions are high in the workplace, people like to talk about it. However, 99% of the time these conversations are not positive or constructive, it’s just people venting about how they feel. Even if you’re the listener, it’s easy to absorb some of the other person’s negative feelings and perceptions. For instance, maybe you’re feeling okay about the transition, but Karen in Marketing hates the way things are going. If she continually dumps all of her pessimistic feelings on you, chances are you’re going to take some of them on.

If you want to maintain an optimistic outlook, find some realistic ways to avoid these situations. Change the subject. Walk away. Avoid talking to Karen in Marketing. Whatever you need to do – just stay away from office gossip. Not engaging in the negative talk will naturally help you find a more positive outlook.

Tip #3: Find your tribe outside of work.

It’s not realistic for you to never talk about what’s happening at work, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all. While I do not suggest venting to the people in your office, it’s essential to have some sort of outlet outside of your workplace.

Who do you feel comfortable sharing your feelings with? Maybe it’s your mom, your cat, or a certain group of friends. No matter who it is, find your “tribe” of people (or animals) outside of your office who are willing to listen to your workplace struggles. Whoever is in this group can be a resource for you to openly discuss what’s going on at work – no strings attached!

(You can also add your journal as a member of your tribe. I find this to be most helpful when I just want to vent and don’t really need specific advice.)

Tip #4: Find time to recharge.

Transitions usually cause drama, and that can be incredibly draining. To avoid burnout and exhaustion, I urge you to find time to practice self-care and recharge.


Self-care doesn’t have to equal expensive massages or pedicures, it can be as simple as letting go of extra commitments during the week to give yourself more alone time. You might make some tea, put on an episode of This Is Us, and cry your eyes out (that’s my activity of choice). Whatever it is, find and prioritize time to recharge. Being rested will allow you to feel less overwhelmed and more positive and joyful. 

Tip #5: Don’t bring work home.

I struggle with not bringing my work-day home with me. Often, there is so much that happens during the day that I can’t help over-thinking things at home. This might be a challenge for you, too, since tensions are high in your office.

Here’s a trick that my life coach shared with me that helps you leave work stuff at the office:

Close your eyes. Imagine your office. You’re leaving for the day and packing up your stuff. Right before you step out the office, there is a box waiting for you. In that box, you leave everything that is work-related: nasty customer emails, anxiety over project due dates, frustrating interactions with coworkers – it all goes in the box. Once you’ve emptied your mind of all work-associate thoughts, you close the box and walk out of your office.

The purpose of this trick is to prompt you to leave all work-related thoughts and memories at the office. They are out of your mind and tucked away in a little box that you may or may not choose to open when you return to the office the next day. This gives you space to focus on more positive, life-giving thoughts and activities.

You are facing and an incredible challenge. It’s not easy to stay optimistic despite chaotic circumstances. But, do your best to focus on the positive and avoid office gossip. When you feel yourself getting rundown and exhausted, take time to stop and recharge. If all else fails, stuff all of your anxieties into the little box and lock that office door until tomorrow!

Stay strong, friend.


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