Last week was one of the most stressful work weeks I've had to deal with in awhile. Work was insanely busy and the marketing department I work in was slammed with a two-day event taking place in our office, an emergency press release, and the launch of a new website -- not to mention our regular workload. By the time I collapsed on the couch at the end of each day, I was completely drained. All of my creative, emotional, and physical energy was used up and the thought of doing it all over again -- for five days! -- made me feel sick to my stomach. Despite the lack of sleep (up at night worrying about work) and the physical toll the week took on my body, looking back on it from the comfort of a Saturday morning I can see that the tough week was actually a really great experience for me. Why? Because it helped me put my regular "busy" workday in perspective.
Last week I was able to not only get all of my regular work done, but I also helped pull off a very successful event, issue a press release, and launch a brand new website. Doing all of these things, while still getting my normal tasks accomplished, made me incredibly grateful for the regular work week. Next week -- busy as it might be -- will be nothing compared to the week I just had. I suppose tough times are like that. They serve as wonderful reminders of how good we have it when things aren't over-the-top stressful.
Even though I'm grateful for the fresh perspective last week gave me (not enough perspective to make me want to give up my dream as a writer, but enough to get me through at least a few more weeks), it wasn't all sunshine and inspiration while it was happening. It was a pain in my ass, to be exact. It was a head-pounding, back-aching, get-me-the-hell-outta-here kind of week. Not the easiest week to be positive and stay present (who wants to stay focused on the now when the now is so stress-filled?!) -- but I did my best. Here are some of the things I did to make it through the week and arrive safely at Saturday.
10 Tips to Make It from Monday to Friday Without Killing Anyone
1. Let less important things slide. I'm a big fan of my routines. I like to get up in the morning and write and check out some of my favorite sites online. During stressed out week, there is no time to check my Google Reader or respond to emails from my friends. There's no dilly-dallying online or taking a nice relaxing lunch break. Last week I resolved to let these things slide. I could catch up on my reading and writing over the weekend; I could enjoy the two-days of relaxation at the end of the week. Instead of harping on all of the little things I loved to do but couldn't, I resolved to let those things slide and look forward to catching up on them over the weekend.
2. Take deep breaths and time outs. When dealing with a very hectic day, it's tough to remember to take deep breaths and time outs. No matter how busy you are, taking breaks is essential. Even if it's a short walk around the building or a five-minute time out in the bathroom, I've found that taking breaks is one of the best ways to beat the stress. Also, in-between breaks it's imperative to take deep breaths. Boss throws another big task on your already-full plate? Take a deep breath. Coworker snaps at you for offering to help? Take a deep breath. Irritating email arrives in your in-box? Take a deep breath. Deep breaths are small things that can make a big difference in a stressful situation.
3. Bond with the people around you. Annoying as this week was, one of the best things about it was being able to bond with two of my coworkers who were in the same boat I was. While wading through all of the tasks we had to do, we cracked jokes, commiserated on our situation, and generally tried to have a good time while we got stuff done. For three days we were together pretty much constantly and this could have been a very easy time for us to grow irritated with one another. But instead of letting the stress bring us down, we did what we could to bring each other up. We laughed, we complimented each other, and we turned our negative situation into a chance for us to have some fun.
4. Do something nice for someone. With stress seeping into your every pore, one of the last things you're probably thinking about is doing something nice for someone else. In fact, you're probably thinking, "Someone should be doing something nice for me!" However, I've found that doing something nice for someone else -- and it can be something as small as asking someone how she's doing or holding the door for a coworker -- helps you to feel much more positive. I can think of a few instances from the past week where I did a small thing and it made a big impact on me. Take a moment to do something nice and you'll feel a rush of positive energy!
5. Call your mom. My oh-so-subtle mom clipped out and highlighted an article from a magazine that stated that there is evidence that one of the best stress relievers is the sound of a mother's voice. I'm not sure if there's scientific evidence to back that statement up, but I do know that my mom can often help me put things in perspective when I'm stressed out. When you're going through a stressful time, give your mom -- or someone else who can calm you -- a call and see if it helps. Sometimes a kind word from a mother or a friend is just what we need to make it through the day.
6. Do one thing at a time. This is something I struggle with a lot. When I have ten things (or twenty!) on my to-do list, I want to do them all at once. If someone comes to me asking for help while I'm in the middle of something else, I'll often try to do things simultaneously. This week, I found myself handling things a bit better than I had in the past because instead of launching into a task immediately, I spent time prioritizing, ignoring emails for short periods of time, and focusing on what needed to be done first. Doing one thing at a time really helps to relieve the panicky "omg-so-much-to-do!!!" feeling that often comes with doing multiple tasks at the same time.
7. Ask for help. Not always easy for a DIM (do-it-myself) kinda girl like me, but asking for help is one of the best ways to relieve stress. It's not always an easy thing to do when everyone else around you is in a similar stressful situation, but it's such an important way to eliminate some of the negativity in a stressful situation. If you and your colleagues are all stressed out, think about who is the best at certain tasks and try to give the work to the most effective people. Ask people outside of the situation -- friends, family members -- if there's a way they can pitch in at home so you're not worried about home-related tasks at work. Don't be afraid to ask for help. People will be more willing to assist than you might think!
8. Focus on the now. Why would you want to focus on the now when it's the present situation that's stressing you out? Well, to be honest, it's often not the present moment that's stressful. It's the worrying about the future -- what if everything doesn't look right for the presentation? what if I don't get this done in time? what if I get in trouble for messing something up? -- that causes the stress. Don't worry about the "what-ifs." Focus on the task you have to accomplish (one at a time!) and have faith that it will work out the way it's supposed to. Don't worry about what didn't go right in the past. Focus on what you can do to make things right this time. Living in the now is one of the greatest stress relievers -- even if the now you're living in might seem to suck.
9. Treat yo self. For those of you who watch Parks and Recreation, you'll know just what I'm talking about with this one. (For those of you don't, check out this Treat Yo Self video clip). When you're having a stressful week, treat yourself to something nice. It doesn't have to be big, but make it good. Reward yourself for all of your hard work. Eat a delicious treat. Buy yourself a new outfit. Go for a long, relaxing walk. Ask your boss for a day off the following week. Whatever treat would help lift your spirits -- and remind you that the world isn't always a stress-filled place -- give it to yourself. Go on, you deserve it. Don't be afraid to treat yo self.
10. Be grateful for what's good. Surrounded by stress, a lot of things -- even the good things -- can turn sour. When your mind is clouded with stress, a gray film of discontent can cover every aspect of your life. Don't let that happen to you. Focus on the things that are going right -- both inside and outside of the stressful situation. If you can, take a moment or two and actually write these things down. Seeing the good things listed out in writing can really help you keep things in perspective. Here are a few things that were good about my week: laughter shared with coworkers, an adorable Halloween card arriving in the mail, a gingerbread haunted house sent by my mom, my new Rumi book, an advertisement I helped design in The Washington Post, my boyfriend's awesome artwork, $500 gift card reward from work (holla!), the successful launch of the website I've been working on, a devilish caricature now hanging at my desk... and the list goes on...
Trust me, after last week I know how hard it is to get through a tough week with a positive attitude. There were moments I snapped at my coworkers, times I snapped at my boyfriend (sorry, love!), and far too many incidents where I should have been enjoying the moment but was too wrapped up in the to-do list waiting for me at my desk. I was in a let's-just-plow-through-this mode and that didn't leave much room for being positive or present. However, I'd say that the tasks I had to complete -- the big event, the launch of the website, the issue-this-now release -- went pretty darn well. I made it through and I now have the benefit of seeing my regularly stressful workday as a relaxing walk in the park compared to last week. I also have some new ideas on how I could better handle the stress in the future. Moving forward with my plan to work for myself will, I'm sure, bring a lot of stress and it's weeks like this one that will have taught me to make the most of the tough times.
How do you handle stressful weeks at work, school, or home?
What advice could you give someone who is stressed out
so that s/he could stay positive and present?