Tips for managing work stress
1. Start a breathing and meditation ritualWe know the power of breathing has to help decrease stress and anxiety and calm an amygdala hijack. In the moment when we are feeling anxiety and stress, research shows that the oxygen and blood flow are moving away from our thinking brain to our larger muscles and cortisol (stress hormone) is being released in our body. By taking three to five deep deliberate breathes, we are able to start bringing oxygen back to our thinking brain and soothe our amygdala.
The effectiveness of mindfulness mediation programs can be found in the findings published in “JAMA Internal Medicine” – it suggests that mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.
This topic is discussed as a Tool for Emotional Self-Assessment in our online Emotional Intelligence Training Course.
2. Demonstrate HumilityTake time to share your story with a friend, co-worker, or family member on how you’re managing your professional and personal life. Don’t be afraid to admit your challenges and fears. Most people are going through the same thing and don’t know how to discuss it with others. How do you empower a team who now is working remotely? How do you motivate them as a leader and stay connected?
I’m encouraging leaders to have weekly team video conferencing calls and allow a few minutes for everyone to just say hello and ask someone to share a highlight from their week. It could be a high or a low – just be open. It’s important to be approachable and vulnerable with others when you’re managing work stress during uncertain times.
In my coaching conversations, most of my clients are struggling balancing their personal and professional lives. It is unchartered territory and many of us have blended families with children and teenagers who all bring their own set of problems to a household dynamic. Others have elderly parents or a family member pregnant or a compromised immune system. We need to practice listening more.
For team building, people are really creative with Zoom, Webex, Collaboration.PLUS or Bluejean video conferencing tools. Employees are hosting bi-weekly lunches or team building games (like two truths and a lie) via video conferencing tools. I had one client share with me that he is the leader of a team and the only one going into the office. He started taking photos of items on colleague’ desks and sent them to his team; employees would have to guess whose desk it is. Keep it fun when going through stressful moment – people need some levity.
The Leadership topic in our online training program explores how humility makes the leader more approachable.
3. Spread words of appreciation and realistic optimismSo many of us are thankful to the front-line workers in the healthcare, delivery services, and grocery industries (and please let them know). My kids did a school project where they sent thank you cards to hospital workers. These front-line workers are providing important services and support at their own risk. Smiling and sharing verbal affirmations and making eye contact have absolutely no risk of contagion. Do it generously.
During challenging times, it’s important to spread appreciation. Thankfully, we have recognition platforms available that allow employees to spread words of appreciation to another from anywhere. Make sure to be intentional when sending a recognition to someone and check to see if you’ve used all your recognition points or if you’ve thanked anyone this week. Make it your priority to spread appreciation on a daily basis – people need it now more than ever.
Outside of work, take the time to connect with friends, family members, or someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Send a text or note to check in with others in your life. Connect in some way – be creative and practice gratitude across the board, both in life and at work.
The Optimism Coaching Card, discussed in our online Emotional Intelligent training course is covered.
4. Be flexible and adaptableThis will pass and who knows what tomorrow will bring, but we can’t be rigid in our thinking, judgement, or rightness. We have to let go of the need to be right in order to have a healthy relationship. We have to let go of our annual strategic plans and reorganize to manage what is in front of us today. Opportunities and innovations are right in front of us if we’re open to finding them.
As team members, be flexible with your leadership team. They’re making big decisions on the fly, and most are doing their best; at times they might make a wrong call. Let yourself as a leader admit when you’ve made a poor decision and course correct. Part of managing work stress is to know when to admit mistakes, learn from them, and accept that it’s okay to not always be right.
And it goes without saying, we have to be adaptable to the work from home environment with many distractions and a real lack of quiet space.
Right now, it’s critical to focus on your health and practice hand washing. Below are some of my top tips on how to maintain your health during stressful times.
- When you’re washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, try practicing loving kindness mediation. Say to yourself, “May I be happy. May I be free from pain. May I be healthy. May I be safe. May I live with ease.”
- Get plenty of rest. Sleep is foundational to your health and well-being.
- Feel the sunshine and go outside. Breathe fresh air, go for a hike, or try a mindful walk. Focus on the sensations of the bottoms of your feet for 30 seconds. Do you feel the ground beneath your feet evenly? Practice listening. Are there sounds you have not heard before or different temperatures or sensations?
- Keep moving. YouTube has an amazing number of guided exercise classes. Try a yoga class online and aim to work out at least three times a week.
- Choose nutritious foods and stay hydrated. Try cooking a new healthy dish for you and your family.