A Guide to Creating Your Stress Management Plan

Work is generally a huge cause of stress for most of us. Whether it is a work transition, new team or project, too many deadlines, or a difficult manager. Unfortunately, the many things that cause stress (often people) - we can't control. So we develop coping mechanisms--some healthy and some...well you know.

It reminds me of my childhood. I thought I was good at dealing with stress. My parents' divorce, switching schools and houses, and lots of other changes that I had no control over. I learned to adapt. Some things were healthy - I formed a strong friend group, traveled a lot and was open to new experiences. Some things were not healthy, lying to my parents, drinking, and ignoring feelings of anger or resentment.

The way we deal with stress at work probably has a lot of similarities with how we deal with stress outside of work. Do you ignore the feelings attached to stress? Does that lead to strong reactions that you can't control? Or do you get silent, refrain from speaking up in meetings and think what difference can I really make? Maybe you isolate yourself from others and work even harder?

If any of this resonates, it’s worth an effort to get to the root of your stress and how you cope. Once you know your triggers and how you cope, then you can begin to create a simple plan for change.

 

Write it down.

Commit to writing down what stresses you out and the feelings that come with. Do this for one week, and longer if you can. You will begin to identify patterns (what stresses you out and how you typically react/respond) that you may not have been aware of.

Download the template below to CREATE your
Stress Management Plan!

At the end of the week, circle the situations that created the most stress and write down how you reacted or responded. Did you...

  • Raise your voice?
  • Avoid voicing something that was on your mind?
  • Go to the fridge?
  • Go for a walk?
  • Say something you regret?
  • Apologize?

 

Transform unhealthy to healthy.

Most of us have some unhealthy ways of coping with stress. Here is a list of healthy responses to do instead. (HINT: Keep things simple and choose 1 or 2 of these tips to add to your Stress Management Plan.)

Eat healthy.  If you are prone to reaching for a candy bar, what healthy snacks can you have lying around instead?

Stand up. Get up from behind your desk/computer/screen. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress. If time is an issue, create bite-size exercise options: Get up from your workspace and move for 3-5 minutes every hour.

Make time for hobbies. It is really important to make sure that work doesn’t consume our lives, no matter how much we may love our jobs. Having interests outside of work relieves stress, increases creativity and will probably make you better or more interesting as a person to work with. What activities give you meaning and job outside of work? (Reading, watching movies, spending time with family/pets/friends, photography, painting, building? Make regular time for these things.

Sleep is golden.  Recharge and reset your body and mind! 

Lay off the caffeine.  Caffeine increases the release of cortisol, which is the hormone that triggers adrenaline and stress!

Create boundaries.  It’s totally empowering to say "No" (respectfully of course!). What time of day can you stop checking emails? When can you turn off your phone - even for an hour? How can you be better at prioritizing and saying “no” to tasks when they aren’t a current priority?

Take time off and stop feeling guilty!  Breaks, holidays and staycations are so important for rebooting, refreshing and re-energizing. Use your vacation and sick time--it's there for a reason. Develop a team culture that prioritizes recharging time by supporting your colleagues to take time off too.

Appreciate the simple things.  Fostering a work culture of appreciation is HUGE for maintaining sustained team motivation and surprise, surprise, manage stress. Make it a priority to appreciate your colleagues, friends & family everyday for their...generosity, attention-to-detail, encouragement, leadership.

Make deeper contact.  Hanging with your special someone(s) (pets included) are everyday things that give us connection - a vital human need. Disconnect from social media and the TV and learn more about those around you.

Find everyday ways to reflect.  Journaling thoughts, meditating for 5 minutes, preparing a meal for yourself and/or others, and short (or long) bursts of exercise in the day can help to disconnect from stress, activate a different part of your brain, and re-energize.

Ask for help.  We can’t do it all - even though many of us (women!) are taught that. Put effort into creating your support network in and outside of work.

  • Develop relationships with people from different backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences.
  • Focus on relationship-building at work. Not just with people you like, but with people you need to work well with. Think about the folks whom you have to ask for stuff from. These are the relationships that often get run-down and tense.
    • How can you make effort to appreciate and get to know the ones you don't typically gravitate to? 
  • Set-up a check-in with your manager/direct reports/team to discuss a plan for managing stress.
    • What ideas can you come up with together to support the entire team? Check out some ideas here.

 

Want to read more? I like these resources:

Be Better at Meetings: My Favorite Tips

Want to get better at hosting meetings and driving more engagement? Try some of these ideas:

 

PREPARE

Determine the length.  Ask yourself: is this a Strategy or Operational meeting? Do we need to troubleshoot an issue, or do we need to check-in, get on the same page and create next steps? An operational meeting should be no more than an hour - to the point, confirm responsibilities, create next steps and finish. Strategic meetings need more time (1-2 hours) because people need to actively think, listen, reflect, manage disagreements, and build consensus.

Get the right people in the room.  Determine who needs to be there. Decide what action needs to happen as a result of the meeting, then don't hold the meeting unless the right people are in the room.

Develop noun-focused outcomes. Instead of verb-focused outcomes like,

  • "We will brainstorm solutions to increasing cross-team communication."

Try focusing on an output you will have by the end of the meeting:

  • "We have a list of 5 potential solutions by the end of the meeting."

By focusing on a tangible output, it becomes easier for all to measure progress toward the goal during the meeting.

Create the agenda.  Smaller is better. Once you have determined the meeting outcome, develop a pathway of people and discussions that will get you there. Organize possible agenda items by “Must Haves” and “Nice to Haves”. Try getting your agenda down to 1 or 2 items for some meetings. This will keep conversations on track and on time. If there is extra time, throw in a “Nice to Have”, or finish the meeting early. Participants will thank you for it and look forward to future meetings.

Define roles.

  • Who will get the video conference working and arrive 15 minutes early?
  • Who will take minutes and send them out after?
  • Who will facilitate and have authority from the group to politely interrupt conversations when things get off track? How can you ensure they get the buy-in from others (senior management) to do so?
  • Who will manage the video conference system, chat windows, and questions and input from remote colleagues?
  • Who will report out on next steps and follow-up actions, and who will follow-up with those people?

ADDITIONAL TIPS: 

  • Depending on the size of your team, the same person may have multiple roles in the meeting. However, it is unreasonable to expect the project manager, meeting leader or facilitator to do all of these well. The more roles you can divvy up to other meeting participants, the more engagement you will get in the meeting.
  • What roles can you assign remote colleagues to keep them engaged?
  • What roles can you rotate weekly/monthly so that the same person isn’t always taking minutes or setting up technology?

 

DURING

Facilitator, manage the meeting!

  • Confirm the ground rules (next week I will post an article, “Create Groundbreaking Ground Rules for Meetings.” Click below to get notified when this article is posted.
  • Get the energy up.  Do a lightning round of quick wins/progress (1 minute per person).
  • Create a Parking Lot or a written list (whiteboard is great for this) of discussion topics that take the agenda off track. These are topics that are important to follow-up on either outside of the meeting or at another meeting. 
  • Stick to the time you set.  Do NOT go over, this creates lowered engagement and trust for future meetings. If anything finish early to give people back their time for mingling, additional conversations, or getting back to their work. 
  • Check-in with remote colleagues frequently.  Ask remote colleagues for their input and questions before asking people in the room. Remind participants to be mindful of remote colleagues, remembering that microphones usually pick up shuffling papers and side conversations.

 

AFTER

  • Celebrate!  You ran a successful meeting!
  • Send out the minutes and next-steps (designated role person will do this). 
  • Document lessons learned.  Collect input from participants. What went well? Document it. What could be tweaked for next time? Document it.

 

TO GET MORE...

Check out these additional resources for more tips on running effective meetings:

 

10 Ways to Build Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of everything we do and team performance, results and success depend on it. How do you build trust?  Do you.... Stand behind what you say you are going to do?  Find common interests with someone at work?  Organize team building sessions?

Check out these 10 easy tips to build trust with anyone, from your best friend at the office to the person you try to avoid.

  1. Schedule a regular communication check-in and commit to it.
  2. Turn on your camera during conference calls.
  3. Ask for questions from remote attendees before fielding questions from people in the room.
  4. Ask an open-ended question before you state your opinion.
  5. Question your own assumptions and pause before you speak.
  6. Dedicate a day of the week to listening.
  7. Invite someone to lunch that you haven't talked to in a while.
  8. Create an agenda item for 5 minutes at the beginning of staff meetings that is a lightning round of recognizing others' achievements.
  9. Advocate for someone else in a meeting.
  10. Appreciate the small things and let others know.

So get to it and check out these posts for more inspiration!

7 Tips for Dealing with Bullies at Work

  1. Strengthen your support team. Create strong relationships based on trust with higher-ups, peers and cross-team colleagues.
  2. Be on guard. Limit your interactions to group settings if possible.
  3. Trust your gut. If you think they are being manipulative, trust it. Walk away or call it out.
  4. Stop the guilt trip. If they say, “You don’t care about all of the work I am doing for you.” You can say, “I do care, and it seems like you don’t appreciate how much I care”.
  5. Verify what they say. Check their data, examples and evidence.
  6. Keep a record. Document your conversations and save emails.
  7. Appreciate yourself! If you have an interaction with this person or find they are entering your thoughts, take a break to appreciate yourself and reset on a positive note.