As I write this I am so tightly tied in a knot of stress about upcoming work deadlines that it is going to take approximately 2 episodes of Gilmore Girls and 1 large cup of tea to unwind. A really bad day and you can replace that tea with tequila. Which leads me to the first topic of this week’s ‘Work’ theme: How to deal with stress at work. In my experience there are two main stressors when it comes to your 9-5 (or 9-6/7/8… whatever you’ve got). The first is when you’re at your desk up to your neck in deadlines and you have no idea how you’re possibly going to get it all done. I feel this way several times a week at least. The second, is the type of stress that hits when you’re not even at the office. It wakes you up in the middle of the night. It ruins your Sunday brunch. I experience this a couple of times a month. That inability to keep work at work. To me it’s the worse of the two. Either way, over the years I’ve developed a few tactics I can fall back on to help me. Below – the best tricks I’ve got.
If you only have 5 minutes (aka you’re slammed with meetings and a to-do list a mile long and you’ve got just one blessed minute before your boss comes back from lunch and heaves a pile of new work on you) try one of these 5 things:
- Take a few realllyyyyy deep breaths. Straighten your posture and positive repeat a mantra to yourself. I like to say ‘sink or swim, sink or swim, sink or swim’ over and over. Spoiler: swimming always wins.
- Pop in your headphones and listen to one really great song. I have an entire playlist of go-to songs for this very purpose. Lately, it’s been ‘Upper West Side’ by King Princess and ‘Dancing in the Dark’ by Bruce Springsteen.
- Inject a little flavor – I like to keep my favorite flavor of cinnamon gum handy and my favorite tea bags in my desk drawer for just this reason. They have a nice, calming association the moment I taste them.
- Pull out your phone and quickly scroll through your ‘favorites’ folder of photos (hopefully this folder is filled with the best of the best and you see a few quick images of your favorite travels, favorite people and favorite things.
- Get moving. Maybe it’s only a walk down the hall and back or a few quick stretches in the bathroom. It loosens things up and will ease the tension caused by that stress (before it turns into something more serious like back/jaw/stomach pain).
If you’ve got a big week ahead and the ‘Sunday Scaries’ are setting in:
- My holy trifecta: prep, rest and reward. Prep for the days ahead by making a to-do list, stocking the fridge and working out. You may not have time for that during a busy week so it’s nice to feel like you accomplished something for yourself on a Sunday. Rest – either physically by sleeping in a stealing a nap or just mentally by trying not to worry about what’s coming up. And reward yourself with a little something fun for Monday night (after you’ve survived the first hard day back). Maybe a new face mask or a new series on Netflix. It’s nice to have something waiting for you when you get home.
- Set an alarm for bed. Mine is a firm 11:17 (don’t ask me why – mainly, I like odd numbers). If it’s 11:17 I need to be headed upstairs and starting my nightly routine or I’m exhausted the next day. Find your own number and stick to it.
- Find perspective and gratitude. Likely the hardest of these but at least once I week I have to remind myself that there are single mothers out there working 2 jobs without a moment for themselves. Or people who dig trenches for a living. Whatever it is, there are things far harder out there than what I’m doing.
- Plan a fake vacation.. or even better a real one! Sometimes honestly just looking up flights on google and browsing pretty hotels/destinations on Pinterest is enough the take the edge off.
- Clean space, clean mind. You don’t have to scrub your entire house – but starting a week with the dishes out of the sink, the laundry put away and the bed made makes a world of difference to me.
Good luck – and remember, its only work.