It’s easy to discuss strategies for managing stress, but let’s be honest, if you’re stressed the situation you’re in can be so overwhelming that you think nothing will work.
I’ve suffered from stress before and, for me, I usually get stressed when things start to feel out of control. Lots of tasks are coming in. People delegate work to you. Your plans go out of the window. Rise. Repeat.
Most of us have been stressed from time-to-time, but get too stressed, and things can start to slip. Unchecked, stress can quickly lead to burnout and the need to take time away from work or continuing to be at your desk, but being completely disengaged.
Look, we’re all busy, but for some people, being busy can be a competitive sport reminiscent of Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen Sketch.
Ticking off tasks on an action list feels good, but how many of these tasks are effective?
When I looked at managing my stress, I focused on five areas:
I had two modes – relaxed and friendly or ‘scary Gem’ (okay, let’s be honest, I still have that mode). I didn’t know how to say no to things, treating requests as demands and quickly becoming overwhelmed.
Assertive communication means advocating for yourself. It means protecting your time to further your goals and taking back control over your time.
It also means being willing to compromise and work with your team to find the best solution.
Set clear goals supported by the team
If we’re not working to clear goals (and towards a vision we agree with) work can seem pointless. What’s the impact of what we do? Does it really change anything? Rather than building your day around tasks, build them towards goals.
Of course, we all have to do things that sit outside our goals, but these tasks shouldn’t make up the bulk of our days.
Work to your values
It might seem a bit over-the-top to spend time identifying your values, but it’s worth the effort. What are the things that are important to you? If you can’t live your values at work, your work will never have as much meaning.
Clear communication with management
If managers don’t set clear expectations, we don’t stand a chance of meeting them. We need to feel able to go to our managers with questions, feedback and concerns regularly.
There also need to be boundaries
Holidays, weekends and (gasp!) evenings should be free of work calls and emails unless there’s a true emergency. There’s a real need for managers to model this behaviour, to show us that while we may all be busy, there’s still time to have a life outside of work.
That’s easy to say but… if your first thought is that all of this is nice, but my boss/team won’t let me work like that… well, it’s probably time to find a new boss and team.
Written by Gemma Storey, content specialist at agency Carrot Communications
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