The One Thing To Do In The Morning If You’re Running Late

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I'm a perpetually late person, and I've accepted it as part of who I am. I've been late for dates, church, formal events, doctor's appointments, flights — I'm still surprised I was on time for my own wedding. I've chalked my lateness up to my optimism. Essentially, I have more faith in myself than I should when it comes to how long it takes me to get ready to leave the house. But lateness can be seriously stressful, especially if you know you could face real-life consequences for your tardiness. If you want to avoid unnecessary anxiety, this is what you should do when you're running late for work: remain as calm as you can.

Obviously, the easiest way to dodge the stress you feel when you oversleep or take too long picking an outfit is to find ways to avoid running late in the first place, but if you're already behind schedule, that's not exactly helpful. Once you've realized that you're going to be late for work, you may panic, but that'll only set you up for a work day filled with worry. If you remain calm about the situation and accept that you can't change it, you'll likely feel better in the end. There's actually a psychological basis for this. According to Psychology Today, radical acceptance is a technique used in cognitive behavioral therapy that has everyday applications. Check out this excerpt from their article:

Acceptance means you can turn your resistant, ruminating thoughts into accepting thoughts like, “I’m in this situation. I don’t approve of it. I don’t think it’s OK, but it is what it is and I can’t change that it happened.”
Imagine that you are late for an important job interview. Traffic is especially congested and you are stopped at stoplight after stoplight. Raging at the traffic lights or the drivers in front of you will not help you get to your destination sooner and will only add to your upset. Accepting the situation and doing the best you can will be less emotionally painful and likely more effective. With acceptance you will arrive at your interview less distressed and perhaps better able to manage the situation.

So when you're running late, try not to stress yourself out or beat yourself up on your way to work. Let your boss and coworkers know that you'll arrive at work later than you thought you would, and think of ways to mitigate any inconvenience you may cause. Perhaps you can stay late to make up for it, or come in early the next day. If you're late to work every day and don't work flexible hours, you could face trouble, but an occasional late day is normal for many of us.

The stress that you feel when you're running late is surprisingly common. The Irish Mirror reports that running late is the most common cause of stress, and it's more likely to cause anxiety than being in debt or having health issues. But if you're prepared for late days, you'll end up feeling much better. Another way to maintain calmness is to keep nonperishable breakfast foods at your desk — you may be tempted to skip breakfast if you're in a struggle to get out the door, and missing breakfast can have serious impacts on your health. Some people are great at being early, and I often envy them. But if you occasionally show up for work later than intended, it's not a character flaw. The best way to avoid any unneeded anxiety is to accept that you can't change the situation and think of ways to avoid lateness in the future. I'm usually on time for work, but on days that I'm not, I remind myself that the world won't end if I'm 10 minutes late.