By: Kristi Spargo
Stress. It’s a living breathing entity. Like a vine, it entangles itself into every element of life and the tighter it squeezes, the harder it gets to breathe and see a way out. Like many others, my stress level is directly linked to an overall sense of organization and goal achievement.When I feel unorganized and not in control my stress peaks. I liken the operating system of my brain to Microsoft Outlook. Don’t tell my boss, but I’m pretty certain if my Outlook reminders suddenly disappeared I would need to quit my job. I am staunchly reliant upon the dings that pop up on my screen, reminding me of what needs to be done. My personal life is the same. I constantly have dings that go off in my brain; reminding me that summer camp registration is due and I need to make a dentist appointment. When too many dings are going off both on the screen and in my brain, it gets more and more difficult to maintain that edge of composure. Additional major life stressors only add fuel to the fire. So what are some measures that can be taken to avoid being choked out by the vine?
Let Yourself Freak Out
We try to convince ourselves on the commute to work that this is going to be the day that goes well. This will definitely be the day that the to-do list actually has more crossed off than added. This rarely goes as planned. We heartily say aloud to our colleagues, ‘tomorrow is a new day.’ But when one day folds into the next without a true sense of accomplishment, only heightened responsibilities that aren’t being met, it festers. It builds.
Before it results in a public meltdown – be proactive. Go for a hike. Blast rock music. Scream in the car. Write down your frustrations. Recognize that this happens to everyone. You will get through it but you need to address it before you can ease your way out.
Give Yourself Permission to Say No
This is tough. The association industry is a service-oriented career. We are here to please. If it gets to a point, however, of teetering on the edge of mental collapse, it’s ok to just say no. Everyone knows that life is busy. There are thousands of tasks. Set your priorities. Set personal deadlines and create your to-do list in that order. Communicate reasonable expectations with your board, committee chairs and internal staff peers. Ask for a temporary reprieve from smaller projects and most importantly ask for help. Being transparent with both colleagues and volunteers will help clear the muddled path before you.
When inundated with stressors the thought of taking a day off to hit the spa is positively horrifying. Trust me; I get it. But the people who depend on you need you to be happy and healthy in order to be productive. Turn off your phone in the evening for a few hours. Take a long lunch and go for a walk. Feed your kids s’mores for dinner. Let yourself laugh and just hit “snooze” on Outlook tasks for a while. They’ll be back to ding another day.