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?
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:
- VIDEO on identifying your "red flags". Tremaine Du Preez, Self-Awareness (Part 2 of 4)
- More Tips on Managing Stress. Psychology Today, 5 Steps for Managing Your Emotional Triggers