From time to time it really is necessary to take some time out to concentrate on you. It's easier not to, and most of us don't, but it will catch up with you in the long run and trip you up if you're not careful. An all new workshop aims to help you manage stress, change and work pressures effectively to ensure that you can deliver your creative best and not go home from work unhappy after troubles, tears and toil.
By Carole Appleby
Stress – much used, much misunderstood. But is it ever good for us? At what point does stress become ‘distress’? And are we too busy to even notice if it does? Looking back over 30 years in comms, like so many of us, at times it’s been a pretty stressful way to earn a crust. Comms can be unpredictable and at the beck and call of people who feel they have a crisis or something that simply can’t wait. Or the fact that everyone wants your expertise. Or, because we’re so brilliant at what we do, somehow people think we can still do it with fewer resources.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, stress happens. When I take on a new project, if I’m honest, it’s stressful. So many unknowns. Where to start? Huge challenge. So little time…. Can I do this?
We’re all different. One person’s stress is another’s stimulus. Good stress can energise and drive up performance. It’s down to how we handle it. It’s the bad stress that gets so many of us down so learning self-management techniques to harness those feelings in a positive way can energise and spur us on.
Tools to manage stress are just some of the techniques I’ll be sharing at the comms2point0 ‘Survival Skills’ workshop on 19 April, but I wanted to give you a sneak preview. It’s a simple 9 point toolkit. We’ll go into it in more detail at the workshop. Here are the basics.
Our Stress Toolkit – coping strategies
1. Recognise you’re stressed: not rocket science but for macho types, can be a challenge. Stress can creep up without us noticing. Then we get ill or unhappy and don’t know why. Or we start over indulging short-term fixes (drink/food/cigarettes/other). The best way to manage stress is to notice it early on.
2. Work out - where’s the pressure coming from? The most tricky of all the coping strategies. Most people assume that little can be done about pressure. It can be (and often is) external to you. Sometimes you create your own pressure which leads to stress.
3. Check out - is it down to lack of control, lack of certainty or both? These are the two most common root causes.
4. Control the controllables: Some external things you cannot control (deadlines, budget cuts, other people). What you CAN manage is your internal reactions: attitude, commitment, behaviour, performance, reactions, emotions.
5. Challenge your assumptions: What are you assuming here? (e.g. Don’t assume that unrealistic targets aren’t negotiable. Do you actually know your boss will respond badly to feedback?)
6. Don’t indulge in crooked thinking: Things like catastrophising, predicting the future, mindreading, discounting the positive, taking things personally, ‘black and white thinking’. It’s not helpful and it will keep you stressed.
7. Make decisions: This puts you back in control. Putting off decisions will intensify the problem. What steps (however small) can you take to make it more manageable? (e.g. demand overload will burn you out if you don’t tackle it. Decisions about your work success, balanced against what you are prepared to commit to it, compared to other areas of your life, cannot be delayed if you want to deal with this source of stress).
8. Be assertive: Underpinned by a belief that all people are equal and have the same basic rights. (e.g. if you’re stressed about role uncertainty – explain how this is making you feel, how it’s impacting your performance and that you need your role to be clarified for the good of yourself and the team in order to perform more effectively – a reasonable request?)
9. Maximising support/minimising constraints: a simple and effective way to develop a situation-focussed strategy for stress. This helps you to work out how much control and influence you actually have over the factors you may have assumed you had no control over. We’ll be sharing more detail about how to do this at the workshop.
Hopefully some of the above will help if you’re in that stressed place. You might be able to take something away and try it out. Let us know how you get on.
But this is just a taster – sign up for the all-new comms2point0 ‘Survival Skills’ workshop on 19 April I’ll be running with Darren Caveney. We’ll be sharing much more of this and making sure that you have the skills and support to make you better, happier communicators in 2016.
Carole Appleby is an accredited coach, facilitator and experienced communications professional
image via Flickr creative commonshttps://flic.kr/p/b7stL4