Organizational Wellness

Here's How to Stay Positive at Work During Challenging Times

Oct 24, 2023
Last Updated May 22, 2024

Everyone faces difficult periods in their career. Maybe you were passed over for a promotion. Perhaps you’re dealing with a toxic boss or a negative work environment. You might be one of the few employees left in your department after a major restructuring, or struggling to meet your organization's goals despite industry headwinds.

Whatever the reason, there are times that it can be hard to keep your chin up. But working toward positivity is worth the effort. Research shows that fostering a positive mindset during hard times can help you get through them, and do so faster than facing hardship with a negative attitude.

While this is easier said than done, there are tactics you can use to stay positive at work. Here are six strategies you can use as you move through this difficult stretch. 


  1. Address Negative Thinking Patterns

We all have days, projects, and challenges at work that can make us want to hang up our gloves and quit. While it can be easy to ruminate on these injustices, this can trap you in unproductive thought patterns. These include:

  • Overthinking, which can manifest in second-guessing decisions, leading to low self-confidence and a lack of trust in yourself or others.
  • Cynical hostility, which leads you to perceive other people’s behavior as malicious and commonly takes the form of criticism or put-downs. That can chip away at morale, undermine collaboration, and leave you feeling isolated.

To avoid overthinking, psychologist and author of The Stress-Proof Brain Dr. Melanie Greenberg recommends giving yourself a deadline for decision-making, and then moving on. And to get out of the pattern of cynical hostility, she encourages being proactive and thinking about other motives for people’s behavior. While it may be easy to gripe that your colleague asking for another extension has poor time management skills, it can help to consider they may be facing their personal struggles and just need a little extra support. This can put you in a more charitable mindset that helps you stay solutions-oriented.

This is a win-win. As you cultivate positive thinking, you contribute to a solutions-oriented and supportive work environment. This can help build a healthy culture that is less likely to trigger negative thinking patterns.

  1. Reach Out to Others

When things get tough at work, it may help to reach out for support from people in your personal life. A strong social circle and trusted colleagues can help you think through decisions and provide a much-needed cushion from negative energy. Deep connections with others can spark creative solutions, bolster self-esteem, and bring about feelings of security.

Reaching out to coworkers directly can also be a powerful but simple way to create connection and a positive environment. Chances are, they want to connect too — 99% of workers say their relationships at work are important for their overall wellbeing.

You don't need to become committed friends with each and every one, but the little gestures can go a long way. As happiness expert Annie McKee points out, building social connections with coworkers “can make ourselves happy and feel more fulfilled in the workplace.” Try making time for a quick chat when you pass by someone's desk, offering to help on projects, or injecting silly icebreakers at the start of routine meetings. Little moments like these can create a more friendly and supportive atmosphere, and a positive experience for others.

  1. Prioritize Your Wellbeing

How we feel physically impacts how we feel mentally, and vice versa. People have to take care of their holistic wellness in order to feel truly whole.

Consider working out. In a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers found that physical activity is tied to life satisfaction and happiness. Exercise gives you endorphins which can help put you in a good mood, which can bolster positive thinking.

But physical exercise and mental wellbeing are only two components of employee wellness. There are six other dimensions of wellness: occupational, environmental, financial, spiritual, and intellectual. Connecting with holistic support for each dimension can help you feel better overall, making it easier to weather difficult times.

  1. Take Time to Recharge

Every once in a while, you've got to lift your foot off the pedal. Take a minute and take a breath. Time off gives your mind the opportunity to refocus, recharge, and rest away from cumulative stress. This allows you to come back to it with sharper focus, performance, and motivation — rather than completely burning out!

Taking a long vacation is great if you can. Even if that's not available, however, research shows that even quick microbreaks can lower stress levels and increase job performance. Incorporating breaks into your work schedule can help refresh your energy levels, reduce stress, and keep a positive attitude as you tackle your workload.

  1. Focus on Your Goals

Goals are an incredibly powerful tool. It can be all too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day challenges of a difficult work environment. Having tangible,measurable goals can help you stay motivated to keep going during a rocky stretch.

Establishing goals lets you define success, and gives you a steady endpoint. They can also help you keep your motivation fresh as you check off small markers on the way to your larger goals. This renewed motivation can unlock new thinking patterns that drive positivity and progress.

Create a Positive Work Environment for Everyone

Taking care of yourself is pivotal to getting through tough times, personally and professionally. After all, committing to your wellbeing is the only way to cultivate sustainable habits that let you produce quality work throughout your career.

A wellbeing program is a great way to spread a commitment to wellness across your company. This does more than help people feel good. (Though that’s a pretty great result!) Workforce wellness drives results.

Remember those eight dimensions of wellness? The majority of workers say each dimension of wellbeing —from intellectual to environmental — impacts their productivity. Supporting wellbeing is synonymous with supporting performance.

Help your teammates feel and do their best. Speak with a Wellbeing Specialist today to bring our holistic wellbeing platform to your workplace!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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