Updated: Mar 28, 2020
So maybe I can’t promise to get rid of all your stress, but what if we could at least learn to reduce it? Wouldn’t that be a huge help and a step in the right direction? I think so. The good news is, we can! By learning to manage our stress, we give it less control over us and our life.
I first wrote this blog back in 2016, when I was Chief of Staff to the President of a Telecommunications company. Looking back on my thoughts, I can’t help but notice how my advice was completely one-sided. As a working mom, who was writing this for our company’s women’s group, it’s interesting I chose to focus on work stress only. I completely left out the stresses we have as moms: making sure our children’s doctor’s appointments are scheduled, baking cookies for the class party, sending in the field trip form on time so they don’t get left behind. The list is endless. Add that to all the stressors we have at work and it’s a recipe for a mental breakdown. (I’ve a had a few over the years and it ain’t pretty.) That said, I thought I’d share the article anyway, with a few updates for the modern working mom.
It’s a fact; we ALL get stressed at work from time to time.
Late nights, extensive travel, deadline slips, changing team members, conflicts during a project, reorganization, acquisitions, coronavirus…..the list of stress triggers goes on and on. If we don’t take care to manage the stress it can be damaging to our work and personal lives. As your children get older, they will become more perceptive as well. It gets harder to hide that you’ve had a bad day or something is weighing on your mind. So what can you do to reduce stress?
Here are 4 tried and true methods I’ve used for dealing with stress:
Find an outlet – For me, nothing clears my head or relieves stress like a good workout to my favorite music. As I sweat it out on the treadmill it reminds me to sort through my priorities, stay focused on my goals, and not let anything throw me off my game. Thirty minutes later, I’m refreshed and ready to face the day (or that jerk in my office that keeps hazing me like it's college). Prefer something more tranquil? A long quiet walk, yoga or meditation may be just what you need to clear your head and get your thoughts in order. Your office might even have a woman’s room, which is usually set aside for breastfeeding mom’s. When it’s not occupied, it’s a great place to hide out for 15 minutes and decompress.
Talk to a trusted confidant – Everyone needs an opportunity to blow off some steam. A certain amount of venting is appropriate; just make sure it doesn’t consume you. This is not to be confused with water-cooler chit-chat, which is never a good idea. It's only a matter of time before the person you're gossiping about rounds the corner and hears you. Awkward! I have a good friend that works at a different company, in a different industry. When I need to vent or get an outside opinion, she’s who I call. Since she doesn’t know anyone at the company, our conversations are always private and she can give me an unbiased response. After the call, I feel better and have a few solutions to manage the situation. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t keep all of your feelings bottled up. That usually leads to an emotional outburst at the worst time. (Crying at your desk and telling everyone it's just allergies sound familiar?)
Lay off the caffeine – I know what you are thinking, “NO WAY am I going to stop drinking coffee.” I wouldn’t say it if it didn’t work for me. Even if you just start by modifying your intake on stressful days. Have a big presentation or pitch meeting in the morning? Why not wait and have your coffee afterwards? I only drink decaf myself. It gives me my coffee fix without the extra emotions. (Once you get past the initial withdrawal, you’ll find you actually have more energy.) Furthermore, if something outlandish comes my way, I’m able to handle it with a clear head and less likely to fly off the handle. e.g. Can you get me your marketing strategy for entering a new market with a new product by close of business? (Sure, because all well-thought-out strategies are built in a day.) The last thing I need is the coffee jitters adding to the stress.
Speak up – Let’s be honest, we’re all being asked to do more with less. That probably won’t change, but if you are really drowning in a sea of work you should talk to your manager. Let them know where you are struggling and what suggestions you have to mitigate the issue. Ask them for their advice and if additional resources could be a viable solution. Perhaps another team mate has more bandwidth and they could benefit from a special project helping you. It’s a great way to cross train other employees and build bench strength. Don’t forget to document the conversation and outcome; it could come in handy during Performance Review time.
These are just a few practical ways to manage stress at work. Try them out and let me know what you think.