The topic of stress, and how to handle it, came to mind after reading another interesting blog post from Law Technology Today (LTT). I think many of us struggle with that "work-life balance" concept from time to time. This term has been used to describe the balance that an individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life. But it is not always as simple as allotting time to focus on one and forgetting about the other.
Here is some advice that I've collected and personally applied in stressful situations:
Start Your Day off Right:
After scrambling to get the kids fed and off to school, dodging traffic and combating road rage, and gulping down coffee in lieu of something healthy, many people come in already stressed, and more reactive to stress at work. In fact, you may be surprised by how much more reactive to stress you are when you have a stressful morning. If you start off the day with good nutrition, proper planning, and a positive attitude, you may find the stress of the workplace rolling off your back more easily.
Write Down Possible Stressors:
Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts, feelings and information about the environment, including the people and circumstances involved, the physical setting and how you reacted. Did you raise your voice? Get a snack from the vending machine? Go for a walk? I know you may be thinking that you don't have enough time to do something that is seemingly trivial. But your mental health is important. Listen to your thoughts and emotions in a given situation. Taking notes can help you find patterns among your stressors and your reactions to them.
In today's digital world, it's easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner. Although people have different preferences when it comes to how much they blend their work and home life, creating some clear boundaries between these realms can reduce the potential for work-life conflict and the stress that goes with it. Typically, if you schedule time to do things that are necessary or just simply important to you, then you will find the time to actually do those things.
To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work. That's why it's critical that you disconnect from time to time, in a way that fits your needs and preferences. Don't let your vacation days go to waste. When possible, take time off to relax and unwind, so you come back to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform at your best. When you're not able to take time off, get a quick boost by turning off your smartphone and focusing your attention on non-work activities for a while - like reading this blog post.
Planning ahead, utilizing your calendar, and cleaning the space around you can significantly reduce stress at work. Being organized with your time means less rushing in the morning to avoid being late and rushing to get out at the end of the day. Keeping yourself organized means avoiding the negative effects of clutter, and being more efficient with your work.
Don't Multitask, just Prioritize:
Multitasking was once heralded as a fantastic way to maximize one’s time and get more done in a day. Then people started realizing that when they had a phone in their ear and were making calculations at the same time, their speed and accuracy (not to mention sanity) suffered. Rather than multitasking, try prioritizing your tasks instead. Make a To-Do list with tasks that you need to complete that day, things that can be addressed the next day, and any errands that may need to be taken care of after work. My mantra: When in doubt, write it out.
Nobody is Perfect:
Being a high achiever can help you feel good about yourself and excel at work. Being a perfectionist, on the other hand, can drive you and the people around you a little nuts. Especially in busy, fast-paced jobs, you may not be able to do everything perfectly. But striving to just do your best and then congratulating yourself on the effort is a good strategy. Also, delegation is key. Find support that will help lighten your load from time to time.
Listen to your emotions and pay attention to your reactions, prioritize tasks, breathe and recharge. Take care of yourself and love what you do, both in life and in the office.