Thriving Under Stress

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Thriving Under StressAt Bethel, we’ve had a busy month on the heels of a demanding summer. After chatting with friends around campus, I’ve realized many of us are running a bit lean on energy.

We’re constantly prioritizing what to focus on and trying to squeeze one more thing into each busy day. For every project we choose to take on it means we’re saying no to something else, which can really wipe us out.

This isn’t all bad. It means we’re all doing a lot of good things. And we’re certainly never bored at work. But we do run the danger of burning out and getting too frazzled to do our jobs well.

I’ve learned that instead of frantically charging on, hoping things will slow down, I have to make sure I’m still enjoying today and giving it my best.

So when things get crazy, how can we stash away energy to keep us going? How can we be good colleagues amidst our own stress?

Take one thing at a time

I’m a firm believer in the theory that multitasking is a myth. Besides basic life functions like breathing and keeping my blood flowing, I’m pretty sure my mind is capable of performing only one task at a time.

You might be a phenomenal multitasker—and if so, I’m highly envious—but when things feel out of control, the first thing I need to do is slow down.

Instead of getting overwhelmed by the tasks piling up, grab a single project and work on it until it’s done. Then check it off the list, celebrate, and move on to the next task.

Do your best without exhausting yourself

As soon as I get a new webpage added to our site, I immediately see 10 things I can improve. But when I have too many things competing for my time, I have to learn to be okay with good enough.

The web could always be better and the possibilities are endless. To keep our energy going, we have to avoid the temptation to wear ourselves out. Sometimes we must simply trust that we’ve done our best and be satisfied with the results. Not every project will be perfect, but we can always take note of what we’d like to do better and apply it to our next task.

Invest in your communication

When I get overwhelmed by all of the requests that pile up in my inbox, it’s easy to fire off a quick email with little thought. And when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I tend to think more about the other things I need to get done and less about the person receiving my emails.

No matter what we’re communicating—whether it’s a quick instruction or a disappointing decision—it’s crucial to think about the person on the other side of our email.

Even when we’re swamped, it’s always worth the time it takes to craft emails that give good information, show our humanness, and honor our recipients.

Show grace

Working in an interconnected organization means that busyness comes in tidal waves rather than twisters. It doesn’t touch down only for a moment on an unlucky few. Instead, it consumes us all.

It’s important to remember that when we’re busy, we’re not alone. We need to show grace to colleagues and take comfort in the knowledge that we’re in it together.

Showing grace on a missed deadline or giving someone else a pep talk when they’re feeling underwater just might release some of the feel-good energy we need to keep ourselves going.

Buy some small plastic animals

Plastic animals what? I’ll admit, this one sounds a bit off. But stick with me here.

We have a stockpile of small plastic animals in our office that we bestow as tokens of success or thanks. For example, the other day my colleague sent a small plastic sheep to another colleague as a thank you for help with a project.

It made us all laugh, and it reminds us that small quirky things can make someone’s day. When I’m feeling stressed or slammed with work, sometimes I need to take a quick break to smile and regroup.

Hopefully after this hectic fall, winter will usher in a slower pace. Typically, when the snow falls life settles down. But even if it doesn’t slow down for you, I hope you find ways to thrive and enjoy your hard work even when it’s demanding.