I work in a high-stress job. There are unmovable deadlines, exhaustingly weird hours, and moments where something new drops in your lap and has to be executed, like, two seconds ago. Tempers flare, sometimes all-out chaos strikes, and many days anxiety buzzes through my veins along with my coffee.
Recently, the stress has been acutely higher. Many coworkers are taking end-of-summer time off, and the staff has been stretched thin. Today was one of those non-stop, one-thing-after-another days, and I almost let it get the best of me. I was proud of myself for being able to let things go when I got home for the day. I’ve talked a lot about not complaining in the past (refreshers here and here if you missed it), so I’ll leave out what NOT to do to avoid that snowballing “Today Was a BAD Day” feeling. I realized there were three easy things I did RIGHT, and I wanted to share.
Take care of others
For me, there’s a warm feeling in making a difference in someone’s day. One of the biggest sources of stress recently has been having to take on a little extra work, but taking a moment to recognize that a coworker (or partner, or friend, or family member…) could really use a hand helps me achieve a sense of purpose in a stressful day.
For example, this morning I was rushing around at work, trying to finish five different things, when I noticed a coworker seemed to be in a bind. I asked, “Is there anything I can help you with right now?” Turns out, there wasn’t anything I could do; she was just trying to hustle because she wasn’t in the right spot. But just the act of offering my ability to help sort of snapped me out of what was spiraling into an inner monologue of self-pity, complaining to myself about the extra work that I felt stuck with. I recognized a bit of what I was feeling in her, and remembered we’re all in the same boat. We might as well all row it together.
There’s a flip side to this way of thinking too. Even if you’re not in a position to offer one iota of extra help, you can make sure that you aren’t unfairly unleashing your frustrations on someone else. I like to think of it like that doctors’ vow: “Above all, do no harm.” I think pretty much everyone who works in the news industry has had a few instances where they’ve gone off on a coworker in a moment of stress. In my experience, that has never actually made me feel better.
Take care of yourself
This is an important caveat to my first point. Many of us spend so much time doing things for others, we forget to look out for ourselves. It’s not always top of mind, but try to remember to take time to check in with yourself and ask yourself what you need right now.
I get it. In the heat of a busy day, sometimes your own needs are the last thing on your mind. Working in news, often food, rest, and even bathroom breaks are not top priority. But you have to head home at some point, and once you finally get a chance to turn off your work brain, turn your focus inward.
For me, winding down from today’s stress meant giving myself a break. Instead of going for a run like I’d planned, I pushed it back to tomorrow and put on my PJs. I allowed myself to have some comfort food–a “dinner” of Honey Nut Cheerios–and watched some Netflix before spending most of the day reading and writing. I decided folding clothes and washing dishes could wait.
On a different day, taking that run would have been exactly what I needed, along with a healthy salad and a deep cleaning of the apartment. Some days knocking out a few songs on the piano does the trick. And you can bet my boyfriend knows that days when I come home and run a bubble bath are days when I need some space.
This isn’t just about what how you’re eating and spending your time. Check in with your self talk and how you’re treating yourself. I’m still working on the concept of being my own best friend–and talking to myself that way. Instead of thinking, “I’m failing at everything I try to do today,” tell yourself, “I’m doing the best I can,” or “I’ll try again tomorrow.” Remember, you’ve survived every bad day so far!
When all else fails, DANCE
Such a quick fix… why don’t we think of this every time?? As I was driving home today, I was in a bit of a “long day hangover.” I decided to pop on an upbeat playlist, and it really did the trick! When I hit a stop light, I started bobbing and weaving like a crazy person, and by the time I got home, much of my anxiety had floated away.
I’m telling you, the power of music is palpable, people! Of course, I think I’m pretty impressionable, so if a song tells me to cry, I’ll cry, and if it tells me to dance, I’ll dance!
Here’s one of my favorites that gets me moving every time: