Originally posted on LinkedIn – September 7, 2015
Work is hard. It’s stressful. Sometimes, it’s real stressful.
I don’t mean my work or your work or anybody’s work in particular. Just in general, there is a part of having to be someplace at an assigned time, complete assigned work , react to business emergencies (that are rarely an emergency), fight for your ideas, fight against scope creep, stakeholder the right people, please your leader, lead your people, miss lunch, stay late, get in early, provide endless updates…. Ok, I think you get the point. Even if you love your job, sometimes work is hard and takes its toll in the form of stress.
I’m the first to admit I don’t deal with stress in a great way. I am an expressive and emotional leader. It’s my constant coach-able moment about how I react and wear my feelings are all over my face. It is my weakness, but it’s because I actually care. And because I actually care, it is also my strength. My emotional connection and expressive nature are what allow me to connect with people. I wouldn’t give that part of myself up.
So here are a few tricks, for better or worse, on how you might deal with stress in the moment. They have helped me a great deal .
Take a Walk
When I’ve had all I can take and I’m about to erupt, I state “I have to take a walk”. If I have reached this level, it means I no longer have a desire to continue the conversation in which I am engaged. I have reached the breaking point either by extreme disagreement, perceived disrespect, or unrealistic expectations. I must retreat and regroup. It may seem childish to run away, but I assure you that is not the intention. I know that if I continue in the conversation, it will further diminish the relationship and nothing positive will come of it. I have to step away and re-examine the situation and approach it at a later time with a clear and open mind. After taking a moment to breath and reflect, I am more open to understanding the other side of the situation.
Find a window
So, just where do I go on these walks? Well, if the weathers nice I recommend a walk around the building someplace nearby, anywhere to get the sun on your face. If you don’t have the luxury, do what I do. Find a window. I prefer to find an empty conference room with large windows. I pull all the blinds and park a chair right in the middle. There I sit, breath, and reflect. I consider what I want to accomplish? What is my preferred outcome? What happens if we don’t reach that outcome? How can I move us forward? All of these questions I ask myself as I gaze out the window to the world below.
Work Up a Sweat
I am lucky to have access to an on-site gym. I notice a huge difference in my own personal attitude and well being if I can dedicate an hour or so to my health. I hit the treadmill and do some lifting. I’m by no means a fitness nut. In fact, I’m in constant battle to eat right and get healthy. But even if I can get in a half hour jog, it helps to reduce the stress, work the muscles and reminds me to put things in perspective. If you don’t have access to a gym, do something to get moving. Make that walk a little longer, ride your bicycle, do yoga. Whatever you can fit into your work life balance, I promise is better for you and those around you.
Find a Friend
One of the most important ways to deal with stress is to have a trusted confidant, a friend. I don’t mean go gossip and tell everyone the awful problems work has thrown your way. I mean find someone, a peer, a leader, a mentor, someone to which you can turn to work through situations that are causing you stress. Often they can offer an outside point of view or just be a good listener. Sometimes when you speak a problem out loud it doesn’t seem nearly as big as it did in your mind. Just make sure you are equally being a good friend for them. No one likes a one sided relationship based on a constant stream of negativity.
Turn Up The Music
Sometimes you need to put on your headphones and get to the task at hand. For me, often that is writing. I prefer the mood stations available on any of the streaming service. I select Deep Focus or Peaceful Piano. Without lyrics, it gives me the right background to unwind my mind and really accomplish things that need to get done. Choose what works. I don’t know if metal hits from the 80s will give you the same result, however.
Try to remind yourself no one shows up to work to make it more difficult for you. At least I hope not! Assume positive intent and remember we are all in this together. Enjoy your walk.