Work Effectively Under Stress Series: Part 1

Does it feel endless sometimes? Your work? It makes a difference in people’s lives. It’s critical to do your best. And it’s hard.


How do you do your best when the stakes are high, the need is real and time is critical?


You engage your support system.


Your support system is more than good friends who listen to you, a glass of wine or a hug from a loved one. Your support system consists of taking specific steps.


This is the first of a 2-part series on how to work effectively under stress. Today, we cover the first 2 steps.


Step #1: Pause


We’ve been acclimatized to react when in crisis rather than stopping.


And it makes sense. Our nervous system remembers a time when a crisis meant life or death. Choosing to pause instead of react will have a significant impact on people relying on programs and services that you and your organization implement.


It’s important to acknowledge that.


Now that you have, why not consider a different approach to crisis so you can bring the best of you to handle it?


When someone needs an immediate answer or you feel the need to give a quick response – pause instead.


I know pausing can be seen as weakness but it actually functions as a way to build clarity. This clarity allows you to better assess situations and, as a result, make better decisions. You see, it’s not a weakness, it’s a strength!


How do you pause?


Slowly breathe in and out. Breathing out slowly, in particular, activates a relaxation response in your body. It shifts you out of survival mode allowing you to take in more information more clearly. As a result, you’re able to make decisions based on information you may not have considered because of stress.


Step #2: Purge


This step has 2 parts.


Part 1: Choose not to check your inbox, phone messages and news first thing in the morning. Also choose to enforce a healthy boundary by not chatting with anyone immediately after waking up (this is after managing expectations with partners, roommates and kiddos that you are trying a new morning routine). This is the pause.


Part 2: Use the pause to write out your thoughts unfiltered, without judgement or shame from you or others. The practice creates self-awareness and clarity. It can even provide answers because your energy is not diverted elsewhere. All you’re doing, before engaging with the world, is sitting down intentionally, maybe half-awake, and writing out your stream of consciousness for 3 pages. This is the purge.


Writing Prompts


You can purge by using one, some or all of the following prompts:


  • How do I feel right now?
  • Why am I reacting this way to this situation?
  • What advice would my wiser self share with me now?
  • What am I afraid of and why?
  • What actions will I take to address my fears?
  • What am I ok with (what’s acceptable under the circumstances?)
  • What am I not ok with (what’s not acceptable under the circumstances?)
  • What’s my intention/goal for today?
  • How will I fulfill it?


Dealing with Resistance


Feeling resistance to these steps?


I understand andcan you risk not checking your inbox, phone messages, news or chatting with someone before you write out those morning papers?


Will those 15 minutes of writing mean life or death?


These aren’t rhetorical questions. Answer them and based on your answers, make the decision to write morning papers 2 times this week, keep doing what you’re doing or do something else which better aligns with you.


The aim here is to help you do your best work and in doing so, help others.


Try to practice these 2 steps and stay tuned for the second part in this series.



P.S. Is now the right time? Have you been thinking about the next step in your career? Do you get stuck when you think of how exactly to move forward? Need help sorting out your thoughts, addressing your fears and feeling empowered to take the next step? Check out my coaching services and if you’d like more info, book a free needs assessment via the link on my page.


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