Crushing fatigue, difficulty sleeping and body aches motivated Pat to see her doctor. After examining her, he gave her a clean bill of health. A few weeks later, her first panic attacks totally rattled her. She was a new teacher, teaching thirty first graders when she felt her heart race, knees wobble and hands tremble. “I felt like I might pass out,” she later stated.
Whisked to emergency, the doctor could find nothing wrong, but suggested Pat learn how to handle her stress better. She reflected, “That is when I began to seriously study the nuanced ways in which stress can lead to burnout.”
The New economy is fast paced and demanding. Easily distracted by the work, deadlines and personalities, we often neglect to pursue even the most basic self-care such as, exercise, a healthy diet, rest and recreation. We put ourselves last on the TO DO list.
Compromising our health, however, can lead to additional problems.
Want to better control your workplace experience and have regular energy to fulfill your personal and professional duties?
Here are some effective tools to manage stress—mind, body and soul.
Commit to Self-Advocacy
We tend to handle stress poorly in America. Ignoring its symptoms, many of us feel the more we do, the more we are worth in the eyes of the workplace. Realize however, exposure to toxic stress, over time, can debilitate you. Depression, bodily aches and pains, insomnia, hypertension and even some cancers are correlated to it. We are 100% responsible for developing a plan to protect our energy and health. In my book, “The ABCs of an A+ Workplace,” I help readers create their own unique plans to combat workplace stress.
Live your Values
What stirs you? Angers you? What do you frequently talk about? These clues point to your core values. Employees are most happy when they feel they are making a difference at work. If gossip around the watercooler really disturbs you, what stand can you take? How can you improve the quality of goods and services? How can you wisely address issues that promote professionalism at your worksite? Where can you find advocates? Believe it or not, expressing your value system, even in a limited way, at work can reenergize you, reduce stress, and build dignity within the work culture.
Celebrate Your Wins
When the boss recognizes your achievements, it feels great, but in the end, you are your best support. Accolades from others are inconsistent. Self-advocacy, on the other hand, requires you access your emotional needs and find ways to support yourself. Are you regularly rewarding yourself for doing hard things or simply getting through a rough day?
You deserve recognition!
One exercise I suggest to my clients is to jot down fifty low cost to no cost things they can do to celebrate themselves. Post your list in an obvious place, like your office data board or bedroom door, so you use it frequently. Drawing a bubble bath, reading, playing basketball, calling a friend and asking for comfort, using the good china for dinner or painting, can be your reward for a hard day’s work. Be your own cheerleader by recognizing your needs and providing for them. In the process, you’re building self-respect and confidence.
This tip feels counterintuitive at first. Busy feels productive to most professionals, but our brains need frequent breaks. Researchers suggest that a ten-minute break every hour and a half of intense concentration allows the brain to synthesize information, make creative connections and reset for the next round of thinking. During that ten minutes, do something unrelated to the work. Take a walk, play a video game, call a friend, or take a short nap. You’ll recharge yourself and you’ll return to the work refreshed.
Excellence is the hallmark of many professionals. How many times have you heard a colleague fuss, “If you want it done right, do it yourself! However, this is a sure-fire way to add stress to your job. Instead, prioritize. Which job duties are you responsible for? Which ones do you enjoy? Which ones showcase your expertise? Begin to move toward performing those tasks more. Delegate the small stuff. One way to do this to model for your assistant how you want certain tasks done. By upholding your standards, and supervising your colleague, you are getting those task done in excellence and freeing up your energy to exercise your expertise.
These are some strategies to manage stress. It requires personal growth, discipline and a desire to protect your time, mind, emotions and physical health. But, on the other hand, managing it brings you a sense of confidence, generates more energy, boosts performance, adds longevity to your career, and puts you in the driver seat of your workplace experience. Pat who once felt victimized by toxic stress now has tools to mitigate it. She has been an award-winning teacher for thirty years now.