Stress from both professional and personal lives can be overwhelming. It can leave you dreading a single toe to leave the bed in the morning, to finding excuses not to return home at night. So when another weekend passes you by, and you have been counting down the hours until your return, it’s time to start planning a little you time.
Schedule a NO Stress Zone Scheduling a time away, and in a place in your home where stress “is not allowed” can be surprisingly rewarding and fulfilling. Many readers are probably thinking of their spinning classes, krav maga classes, walking club, and so forth. -but that’s not the time away I am talking about. If you recharge by being with someone, then maybe ask your partner or a loved one to partake in these activities with you. If you are an introvert like myself, then we thrive on alone time, and the next person to walk through that doorway will find the giant rolling ball from Indiana Jones chasing them. I’m talking about lessening your stimulus intake to destress your body’s sensors emotionally, mentally, and physically. Every Thursday night my home gets cleaned. Especially the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and my bathroom. How your surroundings look represent how you feel on the inside, and can add to stress that may already be simmering. Your home does not need to be spotless. In fact if you are anything like myself, you will want it to look like someone is living there, so not so organized it feels like a hotel. Rather, tidy, neat, and the basics done so I am not worried about having clean dishes or laundry for the weekend. The garbage is changed, my fridge is stocked, my tub is clean for spontaneous baths, etc… This way, when Friday comes and I am too tired to clean and just want to go to the bar and meet up with my neighbours, I can come home to a clean home and wake up Saturday morning to a clean home. Then all day Saturday I get to enjoy my home, even if I have to go into the office, or work from home- it takes a burden off my plate. Saturday night is sacred to me though. Nothing interrupts Saturday night. No clubbing, no dancing, no noise. It’s just me, a bottle of white, some candles, a soft blanket, bacon bits, and Svengoolie. Yes, that’s right, I watch Svengoolie (a Movie Jockey who commentates and hosts old black & white horror movies like Frankenstein and Cult of the Cobra). I take the SIM card out of my phone, turn off all possible alerts on my laptop, and completely shut out the outside world. This night, I look forward to every week. It is my reward for working overtime, long hours, and under stress. I let the cares of the world take care of themselves, and tell myself to be lazy until Sunday morning. There is something so fantastically ritual about it, that it pleases my every senses. The next morning I wake to take on the world long before Monday can even begin to drag itself out of bed.
Stop Taking Work Home So many of us take work home. We answer our cell phones, check our email, write reports, and take on extra tasks when we are off the clock. This tends to happen rarely, every now and again. But if you are doing this regularly it means it’s happening for one of two reasons: you either have an extremely high profile job and complex responsibilities (which typically you are compensated by in other ways), or (this is the most common one) you have bad boundaries. The number one reason employees are stressed about taking work home with them is because they feel it is their duty to do the work. Part of this comes from a low laying level of desire to have continued drama in ones life (examine your past, youth, and childhood, if it was always “go!go!go!” mentality, most likely you have brought this into your work life today by doing too much), or you are fearful of losing your job (feelings of inadequacy, needing constant approval, needing to be constantly needed), or you are a micro-manager and find it very difficult to let go at the end of the day because you want every day to be your best foot forward for the company. Remember, think back to your employment contract. You are being paid for X amount of hours a week, which equates to a monthly salaried budget for the agency. This means, whatever it is, you have at least one week to one month to ensure full project completion. Don’t stress. This is also why as workers we are generally working in teams, with peers, and have a supervisor for counsel, and hopefully a few people we manage to help us carry our workloads. Draw firm boundaries. Unless you are a designated facilities or emergency manager, even if the building burns down at 2am. It is not your concern until 9am. Do not “Wear Your Stress”. Your stress and worry should not be like the sweater you are wearing that you take everywhere. Whatever it is, leave it at work. There are enough worries in one day without having to worry about the next. Let the cares of work take care of themselves in your absence.
Get Immediate Debriefing Support A lot of employees don’t know that most Human Resources in agencies provide counsel and support, such as soundboarding for employees who just need to vent about their days. Most likely you have a supervisor who oversees you and provides you with support. Sometimes employees feel judged, or cautious that they might seem incompetent if they go to their supervisors for support, so HR is a good option. It’s true that having a friend to talk to about your work can be helpful when it comes to destressing. Sometimes though, when a friend does not work in the same environment, it can be difficult to relate to the specifics of the politics and systems. If you have a group or a few work colleagues that you can grab a beer with after work, or even grab lunch with once a week- this will help time fly by a lot faster to feel as if you are truly being heard and understood. If you can find good supports this way you will feel better about the work you are doing.
Use Rewards When I am really stressed, ready to fly off the deep end, and am unsure if I can muster the strength to get out of bed and complete the last week of long term project that has me working 70hr weeks for the last month… I use rewards. I promise myself in the morning to get an extra large gourmet coffee of my choice, accompanied by a sweet treat. Then for a few days in a row I do a cheap lunch out. I promise myself that on Friday I am getting take away for a dinner party with friends at mine, splurging on my favorite beer, and permitting myself to be super lazy all weekend. Oh yes, and I might take Monday off. As you can see, I use food to reward myself. However once it is all spent and done, it’s a couple hundred dollars on food and a dinner party. So for those of you who don’t relish food as much as myself, perhaps a couple pairs of new shoes, clothes, a night away at a fancy hotel, a piece of furniture, bed sheets, books (my second favorite reward), and so forth could be your reward. Or maybe, it’s just having that whole weekend plus Monday off. When we know what we are working towards, we feel better about it, have more confidence, accept rather than reject the stress levels, and are more apt to not crashing so hard when it’s done. It also provides a sense of closure so you feel some gain from all the work you had done.
Good Luck! Happy De-Stress!