How to Deal with Stress at Work

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Music Credits: “Train” by Starcrawler

Dealing With Stress at Work? Help Is Here!

Are you dealing with stress at work? Hey, in this era, who isn’t! Work can always be stressful, but in this particular life space many people are dealing with anxiety at work, dealing with burnout at work, and dealing with difficult situations at work that are simply next level. 

Whether you’re trying to figure out how to stay productive when working at home; dealing with conflict at work (or favoritism); coping with anxiety about needing to go back to work in person; dealing with burnout because you’re understaffed and doing the job of three people; are in a leadership position and trying to figure out how to keep your employees happy; or are evaluating whether to leave your job and carve out a new career path… help is here.

In this episode, I’m sitting down with my dear colleague, Growing Self career coach Dr. Kristi to discuss her top tips for dealing with stress at work, how to deal with burnout, and more. Together, we’re exploring a variety of different career-related stressors you might be facing, and how to deal with all of them. 

She shared so much helpful information during this episode around how to stay clear and empowered in a potentially disempowering situation, how to use mindfulness and self-care to manage stress on the job, how to communicate with your team in order to advocate for yourself, and how to make choices if you’d like to make changes to your working situation. (Whether that’s leaving a job, or working to create a better workplace environment in the position you have now.)

Dr. Kristi works with career coaching clients from all walks of life: leaders and business owners, as well as working professionals, and she has advice for you too. We’re talking about how to juggle work and life, how to set healthy boundaries, and how to stay sane whether you’re working from home or online. So much good stuff!

If you're under a lot of stress, feeling stuck at work, and looking for a way to reclaim your zen, tune in to the full episode!

How to Deal with Stress at Work

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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How To Deal With Stress At Work: Podcast Episode Highlights 

Listen and Learn How To…

  • Pick up strategies for coping with work-related stress 
  • Discover how to use your bargaining power and advocate for yourself in order to feel more empowered 
  • Learn how to deal with stress at work 
  • Understand the importance of self-care for better work-life balance 
  • Know how to manage your stress levels both at work and at home
  • Avoid burnout at work
  • Grasp how career coaching can help you navigate work-related concerns

Tips For Dealing With Stress at Work 

The Stress of Working From Home 

The pandemic has brought about many changes and challenges in our everyday lives. As a career coach, Dr. Kristi has noticed some trends with parents who have to balance working remotely and parenting simultaneously. She points out that you are not alone. Many struggled to navigate through everyday life due to the pandemic. 

However, Dr. Kristi reminds us to look for silver linings in tough situations. She views these things as silver linings: 

  • More family time 
  • Taking stock of what’s important 
  • No time wasted on daily commutes 
  • Increased productivity at home 

About a year and a half into this pandemic, Dr. Kristi shares that more parents have seen more meaning in working remotely because it has paved the way for better work-life balance and more family time. 

Workplaces are slowly opening, but many people don't want to go back to their offices. Dr. Kristi points out that this uncertain time has made people reflect on their priorities and lives. 

Concerns About Work 

Dr. Kristi shares some of the concerns of her clients: 

  • Not feeling safe about going back to the office
  • Missing collaboration and teamwork in a physical working environment 

She believes that it is essential to stand up for yourself and voice out your concerns to your employer or supervisor. She says, “reach out and do some creative problem-solving.”  

If you have a leadership role in the company, listening to your employee’s concerns is crucial in making everyone feel safe and protected, especially during this pandemic. The more creative leaders get, the better everyone seems to do. 

How to Cope with Feeling Unsafe at Work 

With the virus going around, people are concerned about going back to work. They feel unsafe in places that don't strictly enforce health and safety policies. 

Dr. Kristi's advice is to find a workplace that is supportive of your personal safety. If you don’t feel supported, advocate and reach out. If it's still not working, find the best fit for you. Dr. Kristi reminds you to know the following:

  • how valuable you are
  • what you want
  • what is acceptable to you

“You are not stuck. You have choices.”, says Dr. Kristi. It can be a sign to assess your career path and explore growth opportunities. If your job isn't valuing you, it may be time to make changes — or even leave. It helps to assess your work environment to determine what to do next. Don't be afraid to advocate for your salary and negotiate! Understanding your worth is critical to getting what you need.

How to Help People Deal with Stress at Work 

If you’re a leader, you have the responsibility to help your team stay afloat through these uncertain times. Part of the balancing act is to incorporate mindfulness and other stress management techniques. Remember, calmer people make a better workplace

It can be as simple as starting a meeting with a five-minute meditation. “Doing just a little bit everyday can really help overall stress levels, so that you have more clarity, and you’re better able to handle all the unknowns,” says Dr. Kristi. 

Dr. Kristi emphasizes the importance of doing something to keep your stress levels at bay. 

Various tools and techniques can teach you how to deal with burnout at work. When it is hard to control what’s going on around us, it is helpful to focus on things we can control, which is ourselves. 

How to Deal with Change at Work

While working from home is advantageous to some, it can also be a source of stress for others. This setup blurs the lines between work and personal life, especially for parents with small children.

Moreover, extroverts find the lack of social interaction challenging. Remote work also makes it hard for people with ADHD to stay organized and focused on their own. 

There are several strategies you can employ to set yourself up for success. You can hire a part-time nanny to look after your child. It’s also helpful to schedule your day like you would at the office.

If you're struggling with making it work alone, seek assistance from your supervisor. Doing so is understandably challenging for high-functioning people. But you have to remember, “strong is asking for help.” 

How to Deal With Being Overloaded at Work

Because of COVID, more and more people have realized how short life is. Thus, they have become more empowered to leave their jobs and pursue their passions. 

While that’s great for them, it can mean bad news for their co-workers. If you have to fill in for your team, remember to set your boundaries. Nobody can consistently work for 60 hours and not get burned out or sick.

Also, realize that you now have more bargaining power compared to the past. Find the best way to approach your supervisor and communicate your concerns. 

Dealing with Burnout at Work through Self-Care

In these trying times, burnout prevention and recovery are very crucial. Increased stress levels can cause tension in relationships, affect your immune system, and make you more irritable. Now more than ever is where the importance of self-care comes in. 

Dr. Kristi shares some ways to practice self-care: 

  • Get enough quality sleep 
  • Spend time outside or in nature 
  • Take five minutes to meditate, do deep breathing, stretching, or journaling 

There is power in starting your day right through meditation: “You're starting out your day from a place of being centered and calm.” It's a way of training your brain to cope better during stressful situations. 

Taking a moment to pause and collect yourself instead of pushing yourself to run on empty can help you become more productive

Career Development Resources For You:

How to Deal With Stress at Work: Show Notes

The music featured in this episode is by the band Starcrawler, with their song “Train.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://starcrawler.bandcamp.com/album/starcrawler Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

Enjoy the Podcast?

Did you enjoy the podcast? What did you learn about how to deal with stress at work? What’s your biggest work-related pain point these days? Do you feel more empowered to use your bargaining power for your welfare? Tell us by commenting on this episode!

[Intro Song: You Bring Me Home by The Sudden Leaves]

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and you're listening to The Love Happiness and Success podcast. 

[Intro Song]

On this episode of the podcast, I'm so excited to talk to my colleague Dr. Kristi who specializes in career coaching. What I love about Dr. Kristi is that it's above and beyond like, “What am I going to do with my life” kind of career coaching. That's very valid but Dr. Kristi goes deep and really helps people figure out how to navigate a lot of stressful concerns related to jobs and professional development. 

The Stress of Working From Home 

Dr. Lisa: I am so excited to talk with Dr. Kristi today about how to deal with stress at work in this particular point in time where there's so much uncertainty and potential pitfalls and just weird things to even think about thanks to pandemic life. 

Dr. Kristi, thank you so much for joining me today. You with your pretty girl hair, it's always a pleasure. Always a pleasure but thank you. 

Dr. Kristi: Oh, thank you so much for having me. Yeah, it's been just a strange, not even just a year now, it's been going on for a year and a half. Going on to two years of just insanity with COVID. I've just noticed a lot of trends so I want to just sort of talk about those today. One, so people can feel they're not alone. A lot of people are in the same boat. Also to look at ways they can help themselves during this time. 

I think at the beginning of COVID, everybody was sort of… Nobody knew what was going on and then all of a sudden, everybody's remote, right? For working parents, that presented some unique challenges. Many of us also didn’t have kids at home. I know you, me, a lot of people we know. People like you, I think it was even harder on the ones with the younger kiddos. 

My kids are teens, they are old enough that they could discipline themselves around organizing school time and things like that but my clients with preschoolers, kindergarteners, first grade, oh, that’s just such a tough age to have to be navigating working from home and trying to school your kids. It was an especially challenging year. 

I think it was almost harder that things got better and seemed there was a light at the end of the tunnel and then Delta variant hit. A lot went up in the air again. Now, most of us, our kids are back in school although mine was just out again. I've gotten six notices in one week that they were around positive COVID cases.

Dr. Lisa: Really? Oh, Kristi. 

Dr. Kristi: It's not a normal school year even though they're in school. I think the vaccines obviously are helping things move in a more normal direction and I feel better about my kids being in school because they're old enough to get vaccinated, but I've had parents, again, my clients with younger kids have expressed anxiety that their children aren't old enough to get vaccinated. 

Yet, this new variant is hitting kids a little harder than the last one so it's just a lot of anxiety in general, and then now, what does work look like? I think that work has changed and I personally think we're going to see some permanent changes in what work looks like based out of this whole year and a half. I think some of it is good. I really do and I try and look for silver linings in horrid situations. 

So much about the past year and a half has been out of our control and hard but I think some silver linings were people, one, got more family time. We were all together holed up at our homes for a while there, and then, I think we also were able to take stock of what's important. I had a lot of clients tell me they really enjoyed having greater work-life balance without having a commute, especially people that had much longer commutes. They also told me they had increased productivity. 

Sometimes, again, the kid thing was a little hard when the kids were home too. But increased productivity with not being involved sort of in all the water cooler workplace chit chat, they were able to get more done in an earlier period of time. They were able to stop working and then not have the commute so they could be with their families and they really enjoyed that. Now, conversely, after a period of time, some people miss that social interaction. 

Again, it comes down to personalities. I have some people who were so overjoyed to be at home all of the time. They were fine not interacting with a bunch of other people. Whereas other people who are more social by nature and the Zoom thing just was not cutting it for them. The Zoom fatigue thing is real and they were just done and they wanted to get back in the office at least part-time. 

Now, we're at this weird place in time where some companies are saying, “Everybody back in by x date” and other places are saying, “Hybrid, you're in two days, out two days. We're staggering it because we're still following COVID guidelines, things like that.” Other companies have made pretty cool changes. A large company that I just did a stress management presentation for announced they're moving permanently to a four-day workweek because they recognized that increased productivity in people, but also, the work-life balance thing is so important to people. 

I think that companies that are doing well throughout all this are being creative because what's happening, at least what I'm seeing, is the companies were like, “Everybody's back full time starting on x date.” All of a sudden, I'm getting a lot of clients because they're like, “I'm not going back. I'm not doing that.” Because, again, they've realized throughout this pandemic that certain things are really important to them. 

Family time, work-life balance, and some taking stock of what they want out of life because unfortunately, many of us, and I know you dealt with this, have lost family members, right? We're seeing how short life is. I personally was extremely sick back at the beginning of all this. When you realize what's important in life, you're less willing, I think, to make concessions that aren't in line with who you want to be and that ideal version of yourself. 

I've had people reach out realizing through this time, they're like, “Wow, I don't love what I'm doing so why would I want to go back into an office five days a week when I either didn't love the job the begin with or I didn't necessarily love my coworkers all that much either.” 

Dr. Lisa: Right, right, and now, I'm risking my life for the pressure of being there. 

Dr. Kristi: Exactly, exactly. I think that's been nice. People are like, “I get to choose. I get to do something different.” Sometimes, even the act of enough people making that choice has shifted the employer into saying, “Oh, you know what? Okay, we'll go hybrid” because replacing employees is expensive. It takes time. It takes resources. 

Dr. Lisa: It's a new kind of collective bargaining. I don't know how organized it is but yeah, a critical mass of people are getting the attention of leadership. 

Dr. Kristi: Absolutely. Yeah, for the first time, I think, in a very long time. There has been some good that's come out of it. My hope is that people can really look at themselves and what they want looking ahead, and to speak up for themselves. Because a lot of times, people might be unhappy with how their company is responding or a certain policy, and when I say, “Well, did you address that?” “Well, no.” Well, then, first, changing jobs also takes energy and time and applying for jobs and looking for things so if it's something that's potentially is fixable, try to fix it. Speak up. Advocate for yourself. 

Concerns About Work 

Dr. Lisa: What an important message right there is that I'm hearing you say you might be more empowered than you realize. I think historically we're used to kind of doing what we're told in employment situations and you're saying that this circumstance has led you to have more power than you might even realize. What are some of the kinds of things that people listening or the career coaching clients that you've been working with are experiencing as stressful that you've been encouraging them to say, “Can this be different at my job?” What are some of the typical things you're hearing? 

Dr. Kristi: Well, number one is complaints about going back into the office, not feeling safe. That's number one. In those cases, encouraging them to reach out and advocate their manager, their team, because a lot of times, they're not alone and that's where that collective bargaining power comes in. Other times, it's that missing the dynamic. A lot of work environments, even if they don't want to be back full time, they miss that collaboration and teamwork that you don't necessarily get that same thing on Zoom. 

Even if you're having Zoom meetings, which is great to a point, you're still missing sometimes the magic that happens when you're all together in a room talking. I've had clients explain it to me the way they would explain it to their supervisor, and then, again, reach out. Do some creative problem solving and sometimes, it's actually during this pandemic before going back in the office, it's actually even having virtual events that aren't necessarily work-based. 

I've had more people come to me and they are in leadership positions who are my clients. They're like, “How do I get my team to feel good and engaged through all this?” Some of my leadership clients who are executives are doing just more fun online things. Ice-breaking games, fun things such as getting them bonded, and then, engaging in more creative activities. Then, looking at bringing them in one day a week for a joint meeting where they can do some of that dynamic collaboration type activity. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, just a totally different way. Listening to what people are saying and “How can we fill their cup and meet these needs” but do it in a totally different way, not just baked into the daily experience anymore and how can people ask for that even if you don't know exactly what the answer is. Because at the end of the day, and I love that you work with so many leaders and I think every leader listening to this podcast will understand that at the end of the day, it's your problem to figure out the how. You know what I mean? That it's their responsibility, I think, of working people to say, “Here's what I want. Here's what would help this feel better for me.” 

Dr. Kristi: For the leaders, that creativity piece, right? Because creative problem-solving right now, that's made the difference, again, with companies I've seen that have done really well and handled this versus not. I work with some leaders who, their organizations are client-facing jobs so it's this weird balance of meeting the needs of the people they serve, the community they serve with their staff who also need to feel safe and protected. It's an interesting balancing act right now for leaders. The more creative I've seen they get with how they address things and problem-solving, the better everybody seems to do. 

How to Cope with Feeling Unsafe at Work 

Dr. Lisa: Definitely. I'm glad we're talking about that but if I may ask, I know that you work with a spectrum of different clients, many leaders. I know that you work with a lot of medical professionals. Honestly, I know you have a lot of physicians that you see. That's probably a different animal. I'm curious to know, what advice or recommendations you would have for someone who might feel unsafe at their job or that they aren't being protected or supported and how to cope with that kind of stress

Specifically, I'm thinking of, and this isn't even a client, Kristi. This is my sister but I know that a lot of people are in the same boat, I'll tell you. She's a high school art teacher and when she started the school year, it was at a school district that was not requiring masks, and she, with what we've been through with our mom, everything that we can, especially also having unvaccinated children at home and breakthrough cases and all that. 

With her first day back to school, she asked students to put on a mask in her classroom. Not only did the students say now, she got in trouble with the administration for asking and she felt very unsafe and unsupported and it's led her to do some soul searching. I don't know exactly what's going to happen there with her career path but I'm wondering in general, you must have clients who are in similar situations where it feels like they cannot protect themselves and maintain employment. 

Dr. Kristi: Absolutely, and that, the teacher thing just breaks my heart because that's going on in our district too, unfortunately. They're out there, basically, they signed up to teach, not to put their lives on the line. It just seems like a basic respect. At our school, there was at least support from administration so there are, and I know this from my kids who are in there, that there are teachers who have said, “You must wear a mask in my class.” The administration has supported that and actually sent an email out saying, “If your child refuses to wear masks, they will be dismissed.” 

This goes back to the leadership piece. I really hope that more leaders step up to do their part in ending this. Now, if you have an administration, that sounds like your sister did the right thing. She spoke up. She advocated for herself and she got in trouble. In that kind of case, I would absolutely recommend there are districts and it's hard because if you love your district, but then, you have to do that inward soul searching of, “Do I find somewhere else?” 

We have had teachers go to other districts for various reasons due to district-wide policies that it's always an option to look at a different district. If you love teaching, I would say, if that's your passion, absolutely. Yes, you could look for a different career but if it's your passion, try to find somewhere that is supportive of your personal safety. It's sad that there are administrations that aren't supportive of that.

Dr. Lisa: I love what you're saying though, that you're articulating this reminder to know your worth and know that you have so many options and particularly in this kind of climate where many employers are very eager to find and retain and keep happy, talented, great help. That you're a catch and you may have other options, If one place doesn't feel good for you, you find the one that does because you don't have to. 

Dr. Kristi: Absolutely. And I will tell you, again, just from all my clients are career clients in one capacity or another and so many of them have gotten jobs in the last, I would say, a month or so. I have gotten more emails the past month because I work with them on that. If you're not supported, obviously, advocate, reach out, do what you can, but if it's not working, doesn't feel like a fit, oh my gosh, so many places are hiring right now. 

Right now, one of my clients, last week alone, he got three job offers and needed to have a session with me to help walk him through which one, which is an amazing problem to have. Another one of my clients, a physician, same thing. She got offers from three different hospitals. It was helping her navigate which was the best fit. Absolutely know your worth, know your value, know what you want and what's acceptable to you, and if you're in a place that absolutely is refusing to support that, you are not stuck. You have choices. 

Even my son, he's 17. He's been at his same first job for eight months and decided there were things that he did not feel were supportive of him. I said, “Go interview. Everybody's hiring right now. Literally go interview.” He didn't even want my help with his resume. I'm like, “Literally, that's what I do for a living, but okay.” He applied to three jobs. The next day, got two calls, interviewed the next day, and was offered a job on the spot and he's 17. Everywhere is hiring right now. Yeah, it's absolutely in your power to do something if you are not happy. 

Dr. Lisa: I'm so glad we're talking about this and I had another question. I'll ask you that in just a second. Now, I have to circle back around. Just for the benefit of our audience here, say that we have somebody listening who is being showered with job offers because they are amazing and they have so many great opportunities. Do you have a couple of the sort of go-to ideas that you will assist your career coaching clients with in trying to evaluate different positions and which one to take if you have a lot of great opportunities? 

Dr. Kristi: Yeah, so it's hard because everybody's different. A lot of the work I do with people is identifying their personality, their value system. I do a lot of work with people on values and what drives them. A lot of times, you can have a similar job but the mission of the company might be different, or the specific field or way in which you would be using your skill set might be a little different, could be the area. 

Yeah, working with people to make sure whatever choice they make is in line with who they are and their values rather than external factors like parents saying, “You should take that one. It's more money.” Well-meaning family members. But at the end of the day, you are living your life and so you want to make the decision that it's best for yourself so I help people with that. 

Dr. Lisa: Oh, that's good because it's difficult, I think, to look at just hard metrics. What you're saying is even a couple thousand dollars difference in salary, which you could negotiate, is at the end of the day, so much less important to well-being, and health, and happiness, and reduced stress, and more job satisfaction, and a good fit with your personality, and the company culture. 

The meaning that you get from the work and how it sort of creates this whole life experience as opposed to just, “Well, this one has this kind of health insurance and so I'm going to do that.” That can be exactly understandable. All that matters but, I don't want to say short-sighted, but that's the word that's coming to mind. It has to go deeper. 

Dr. Kristi: Yeah, I have them look at it holistically. Negotiating salary, that was something I just had multiple people do. Not to be stereotypical, but I do think I've seen this enough that I think it's true. Women seem to have a harder time advocating for their salary and negotiating salary than men. It's like, “Okay that's what you offer me? Well, okay.” Whereas my male clients are more like, “No, I'm not going to take that.” I'm like, “Okay.” Working with people on how do you go back, so you love the job but you are wanting a higher salary. 

I just helped a woman do this who had never negotiated a salary in her life. We had the next session and she was shocked. She said “They did. They raised the offer” and I was like, “See? Because you're worth it.” I wish women understood their worth as much as men often do. Again, that's not always the case but more often, I think women are not as comfortable advocating for themselves that way. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, that's such a great reminder. I know I would struggle with that too. I don't know. It's a hard one. What we're talking about right now, just, I think, reminding everyone of the power of their worth, the number of opportunities and choices that they have, I think that those ideas in themselves reduce stress so much because it's like, “Oh yeah, I don't have to do anything. I have lots of choices.” 

Advice to Deal With Stress at Work 

Dr. Lisa: I'm wondering too if we could talk a little bit about people for whom for a variety of reasons, they are happy enough with their role, their job, they're not making big plans to stay, or maybe trying to find something different is harder than just dealing with the mixed bag of the current situation because nowhere is perfect, but there are other stressful situations that people are facing. 

I know when we were kind of corresponding, you mentioned a unique kind of stress that's coming up where it seems like people in a team are maybe getting different privileges around staying home or having to come in. It's a different facet of office politics. There's a resentment. Can you say a little? I don't know if I'm articulating that well but there are new wrinkles in working relationships these days. 

Dr. Kristi: Absolutely, because with the hybrid model, a lot of employers I think are implementing in more corporate-type jobs with the two days in, two days out, or however they work it. But some places, if people are resistant to coming back in, some of the conflict that's come up is resentment by the in-person workers against the at-home workers, right? They're like, “Well, are they really doing all the work that we're doing? Because we're here and showing up every day and we don't see them.” 

I think there's, again, it's been more of my work with leaders and leadership-type roles where they've described this to me. Part of the work leaders have had a challenge is bringing them together in virtual meetings but also making sure that the work is known. Because it's easy when you're remote that you're doing your thing and working and they are really productive but the in-person team doesn't necessarily know that. It's how you relay that, but then, also, how do you make it feel safe enough? At what time do you then implement people coming back into the office? 

They can't stay home forever by logistics of the job itself. Then, it's been navigating gently, bringing these people back in, and changing those expectations as vaccines have rolled out. Because now, everybody can be vaccinated for the most part. There's obviously some high-risk cases, immunocompromised people, that kind of thing but for the most part, vaccines are widely available, widely effective. That has changed things again. Before, it was certain people it was understandable they didn't want to be in the office because it wasn't safe. Well now, it is much safer, not that you can't have a breakthrough case but they're finding it’s often, if you're vaccinated, not life-threatening. 

Then, it's a challenge of bringing resistant people back into the office, mending some of those feelings of resentment that they've been home longer than everyone else kind of thing. I think that's, again, a challenge that leaders have right now and it's where they've had to be creative. Again, it's where I've walked them through by doing some different activities than maybe they used to do, changing up team meetings in a slightly different way where everyone does a little check-in reports on what they've been working on that week. Again, everybody knows what everybody else is doing. 

There are all kinds of ways until we're all sort of either back. Some places are staying hybrid, which is, I think, great, but everyone's expected to come in at least two of those days or however it works. I think once we get to that point, it's going to take this balancing act basically by managers, directors, leaders, on how to make everybody sort of feel included and decrease that potential for conflict along with just the other thing I'm hearing: overall stress management techniques. It's a stressful time for everybody, whether you're in the office, out of the office, hybrid. 

Dr. Kristi: I've noticed an uptick in people in leadership positions bringing in mindfulness and stress management techniques to the regular team meetings which I love because I teach that to my clients anyway and it's so needed right now. It's just such a stressful time in general. I love that they're incorporating that. Just one of my clients told me they introduce their team meeting and started with a five-minute meditation. That's amazing. That's what we need right now. Everybody's up here with their cortisol levels and that's when you get sick, is when everybody's stress hormones are at a high level so even incorporating more… 

I had a huge national corporation bring me in for virtual stress management training and as a corporation, I would not have thought would necessarily, I don't know again my own thing, necessarily bring in mindfulness training and they wanted that. That was for several hundred people and they loved it and they said they'd been needing those type things just to manage day-to-day stress. I think people also underestimate the power of five minutes of stretching a day or meditation or just even deep breathing, five minutes of yoga. 

Doing just a little bit every day can really just help overall stress levels so that you have more clarity and you're better able to handle all the unknowns. There's so many uncertainties still right now. We don't know for sure what this next year is going to look like. There's new variations coming out every day it feels like, right? All we can have control over is us, not the world around us as much as we wish we could. By taking control of ourselves and engaging in a daily practice of stress management, and again, that can be anything. 

Some of my guys kickbox, that's their mindfulness. I have people who go run, people who rock climb, or whatever your thing is. Just something consistently that keeps your stress levels down during this time because that also boosts, besides your natural antidepressants, your serotonin. All the feel-good: serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, all those feel-good chemicals in your body. That also then increases your immune system so that with all these things going around, you're more likely to be able to handle it without getting super sick. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, definitely but what a great reminder though. It's like there are sort of these all these different spheres and things available to you to deal with stress at work but starting with yourself, taking a look at your personal daily routines, a mindfulness practice, maybe some thought-shifting. I love what you said is like finding ways of taking control, really over your inner experience. I know for me personally, I get stressed out when I feel I'm not managing my time well and when I don't have enough time to do important things and I'm doing all these other things instead. 

It sounds so dorky but my biggest stress management tool is making my list, making my plans, those kinds of… Yeah, it's so powerful. What I love is just this reminder to people that in addition to your personal kind of stress management practices if it's physical or if it's mental, there is opportunity right now to ask for that to be supported by your leadership in your workplace

Say, “Hello, Mr. person or Ms. person, let's have a Dr. Kristi come in and teach us some mindfulness techniques that we can use on the job” or “What are we doing to support mental and emotional and physical wellness in our group right now? Because I need that” and to have that be heard and respected.

Dr. Kristi: Absolutely, and then, that makes for a better workplace because people are calmer. They're not as stressed. It's a win-win for everybody. 

How to Deal with Change at Work

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Oh, that's such a good reminder. Are there other pain points that you've heard your clients describe lately about just areas of stress at work that are kind of unique to this modern experience that we're having that we should address? For example, and this is one thing that came to my mind, many advantages to working at home, cutting out the commute, potentially more time with your family. 

There are some people who experience working at home as being more stressful in some ways because there's this smooshing together of work and life in a way that isn't actually good. Whereas you had this boundary and a different space when we went to work. For some people, it's time management and productivity stuff. Has that come up for your clients? 

Dr. Kristi: Oh yeah, absolutely, especially with small kids in the home, right? I've had clients, again, have to get creative. If both parents are working from home, they've made actual schedules where they trade out. Someone has a meeting, the other one is doing. Some of them have even brought in a part-time nanny into the home so that they're able to do the meetings they need to do but they've gotten creative with putting a sign on the door like a stop sign that their three-year-old knows means daddy's in a meeting or mommy's in a meeting, that kind of thing and but also for them, for the clients. 

They told me they've had to look at that too because they say it's too easy to go out and want to go play with their little one or go read a book or go out to lunch. Again, it's something that you encourage how do you set boundaries around that. If you take lunch anyway, sure, go have lunch with your little one or however that is set up and then you go back into your office as though it's your workplace until your ending time whatever that is. That has been a challenge for sure because for some people with little kids, I think everything about this year and a half has been more stressful. 

I also have clients who don't have kids and it's stressful because they're either super extroverted and social people and it is really driving them nuts now because they've been home for so long or some of my clients have some ADHD tendencies. Staying organized and focused on their own is super challenging if they don't have someone there saying, “Okay, you need to do this, this, and this” or at least other co-workers that are also working, and then it keeps them engaged and focused. 

Some of my clients with some of those attention wandering or they get distracted, then it's working with them individually on creating some techniques to help them stay focused and engaged in the workday, but part of that also has been reaching out and saying, “Hey, I need a little bit extra help” from their manager, supervisor. In fact, one I had earlier today finally reached out. Super brilliant person in a brilliant line of work and I think sometimes, when people are super high functioning, it can be harder to ask for help because they feel they shouldn't need it because they're so smart when really, we all need help at different times. 

Encourage them to ask for this thing that would help them stay a little more on track during the workday and their manager said, “Sure, we'll start tomorrow” and started doing it. It really is going to be really beneficial for this person but it took them… He's also male, which sometimes, males have a little bit harder time asking for help and have shared that with me, that they feel like, “Well, I should be strong.” I'm like, “Strong is asking for help.” 

Dr. Lisa: “What does that mean?” 

Dr. Kristi: Exactly. He was like, “Oh my gosh, it totally worked.” I'm like, “Yes, it did and now, you can keep doing that.” That kind of thing, I think there are challenges based on certain personalities that working at home is harder and that's okay. It's working with that to set yourself up as much as possible to succeed. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Well, what a growth moment though because I've had that too and I have personally felt surprised. One client I'm thinking of is just phenomenally accomplished. She is also a physician doing so many things. That and working from home, experience is kind of floaty “What do I do next? Let me look at my email again” kind of thing. It's so interesting, this growth opportunity that people have, I think, who have been relying for a long time on this external structure and expectations of other people to kind of keep them organized, keep them on track. 

Then, in the absence of that, really having to develop this internal motivation and this internal organizational system for “How do I prioritize my time and energy? How do I stay focused” and managing themselves in a lot of ways without supervision. What important and cool work, personal work, to have this opportunity to do that. 

Dr. Kristi: Yes, and a lot of the time management work I do is with physicians because they're so busy and with their on-call schedule shifting all the time, it's harder to stay on a regular… Even self-care track with the stress management and mindfulness because their schedule is different all the time. Yeah, they have a special challenge along with dealing with a lot of medical stress right now. 

How to Deal With Work Overload

Dr. Lisa: Well, I'm glad that we talked about just that the work from home stress, different kind of stress. Were there other things that came to your mind when I asked? 

Dr. Kristi: Just one thing that actually came up today and came up with several clients is that so people who are feeling empowered to leave, absolutely. If that's what they're feeling, they should go seek out what's going to make them really happy. I have a lot of those clients. They're like, “Life is short, I want to go do something else.” However, I also have a few clients who are the ones left in a business where multiple people…

Dr. Lisa: Are dropping out.

Dr. Kristi: As it is, yes. Now, they're doing the work of three and four people because of so many people leaving. The stress level is just at the top. With those clients, it's been addressing tools on self-care, stress management. Again, what can be put in place as far as advocating for help during this time and looking at the bigger picture down the road? Are they hiring more people? Are there temp people coming on? Taking on the role of multiple jobs, I've seen more and more. 

I've also had several clients, due to the pandemic, have very unexpected layoffs. They weren't looking for another job but all of a sudden, they found themselves in the position of “Okay, I need to find something.” Again, that just adds to the stress they were already dealing with the pandemic. Yeah, I've seen all kinds of issues cropping up related on all sides. 

Dr. Lisa: I've heard that too and I'd like to talk just a little bit more. Somebody who's working in a job doing their thing, doing a great job, and a couple other related people leave and they're being asked to do their job plus the job of others. I think that there needs to be some balance. With my clients though, I always err on the side of the boundary side, right? But the balance between being able to have boundaries and being able to say, “Actually, no. I'm working 40 hours a week. This is the time I have. What is most important for you for me to be doing? And that's what I'll do.” 

Those kinds of conversations with their bosses versus on the other side, especially, I think, for small organizations, being a team player and having faith that other people are coming and this isn't going to last forever. How do you help people kind of negotiate when to maybe, “Yeah, do a little bit more” and also when to say, “You know what? Actually, no. I'm not working on Saturday. Your problem, boss” without being a jerk about it? 

Dr. Kristi: Yeah, and I think, again, it's a good time that you have more bargaining power to say things like that. Whereas in the past…

Dr. Lisa: I would never actually say that, just for the record, those specific words.

Dr. Kristi: I think you do have more power now than employees did in the past because in the past, they'd be like, “Well then, we'll find someone who will and see ya.” Now, everyone is hiring so they don't want to lose anyone else. I do think places are more willing to work with you than in the past. Again, it depends on the nature of the job and your position in the company, right? Because people who are in leadership positions, a lot of them right now are working 60 hours a week.

Dr. Lisa: And there's nobody else.

Dr. Kristi: There's nobody else to give them the work to but in those cases, if it's someone who just… multiple peers have left and they're taking on that work, we talk about who their supervisor is. One of my clients today, their supervisor is the CEO so it's a little tricky but they have more bargaining power than they realized. Part of it is empowering them and realizing that they have any bargaining power in saying, “No, I don't want to work 70 hours this week.” 

Then, some of my clients, it's very sort of ebbs and flows with that. They'll have to work a lot of hours and then it'll dip back down, but then, based on the nature of the job, if it's a cyclical type job, it goes back up again. Then, it's around stress management waiting for that dip again if it's expected but nobody can stay working 60, 70 hours and not burnout and not get sick. 

Yes, it's teaching them how to approach, again, based on their supervisor’s personality, all those kinds of dynamics. How do you approach them where it would be best received? Then, I actually have them practice with me in session sometimes. If they're really uncomfortable and they are not good at advocating or, not that they're not good at it but they've never done it, I'll have them practice with me just to get more comfortable with doing that sort of thing. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Oh, just the ideas you're communicating too. Yeah, we can all step it up a little bit sometimes but that there have to be limits. The consequences of trying to do everything for extended periods of time is burnout, it has a negative impact on your health, probably your relationships, your mental wellness. You actually can't do it for extended periods of time, then it's unreasonable that somebody would ask you to. 

Dr. Kristi: It would negatively impact your work. You're not doing productive work 70 hours a week. You're just not. In fact, most people aren't even doing really productive work eight hours a day. They've done studies on it. You're usually really productive for four hours out of your day. I think that that's unrealistic, but again, the leaders are in the position of “You don't have anyone.” 

I know my husband, they just lost three people I think. He's actively hiring as fast as he can. Part of it from the leadership position is “Okay, how?” Because a lot of times, there's red tape, and you have to go through HR, and all that stuff, but like, “Okay, how quickly can we get the notice out there that we're hiring to get more people in?” 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah. Yeah, definitely, and making that the priority. Yeah. 

Dr. Kristi: It's not an easy answer with that because it's a really hard time right now.  

Dr. Lisa: It really is and I'm glad that we're talking about different aspects of this. There's pockets of stress for employees also for employers, so on both sides of the equation, it can be really stressful. It can be stressful to be at work these days, it can be stressful to be at home. There's opportunities for stress in many different areas. 

How to Deal with Stress at Work through Self-Care

Dr. Lisa: Then, lastly, given all of that, my last question for you before we wrap up is lots of stress. What advice do you give your clients for how to manage their stress in such a way that it doesn't come out sideways either in their interpersonal relationships at work, it's easy to get snappy with people, or with other people in your life, your partner, your kids? What do you do with that stress? 

Dr. Kristi: That is something that I've had expressed to me a lot is because of increased stress, people are getting in more arguments with their spouse or their loved ones, or they're feeling just more snappy and more irritable. That's just where the importance of the self-care comes in. It's interesting because when people most need to use their self-care because their stress levels are high is when they tell me they're so stressed, they're not using them at all. 

Dr. Lisa: “I don't have time.” 

Dr. Kristi: “I don't have time. I don't have time to meditate.” That just kind of compounds the issue. It's just sometimes, people think, “Well, I don't have an extra hour a day for self-care. I barely have time for eating and sleeping and all that.” A couple of things: one thing I work with people on right away is sleep because that is the number one self-care thing. It's the foundation of everything else. If you don't do anything else but you get your sleeping right and you're sleeping quality, good amount of hours sleep, or you're rested, that right there is the best self-care you can do. 

I have so many clients that that's where we have to start because they're not sleeping well or their brain is going about all the things they have to do, they're not falling asleep. Yes, so sleep is number one. I work with people on that first. Beyond that, you don't need an hour a day. I would say if you have that on the weekend and you can go for a hike with loved ones or walk your dog out in nature, being outside at all any time of the day is so good. You get the benefits of the sunlight, vitamin D, again, tends to raise the good feeling hormones in your body. 

You only need a few minutes. Walk outside, walk your dog around the block, walk outside to get the mail, sit outside to have a cup of coffee in the morning, whatever it is. You only need five minutes to do a meditation. A lot of my clients, when they get up in the morning before the hectic craziness of the day starts, they'll take five minutes and meditate. They found it's more effective to do it every day just for five minutes than to wait until you have that magical hour and meditate once a week. You get the benefits, all the benefits just from a few minutes which is amazing. 

They've shown MRIs of what meditation actually does to your brain. It changes how your brain is operating so if you start out your day, you have a good night's sleep, you start out your day with five minutes of just deep breathing or meditation, you're starting out your day from a place of being centered and calm. Then, whatever happens in the day, you've set the tone for the day. Even if something chaotic happens, which often, honestly, it does, you feel like you can handle it better because you started out like, “Okay, I got this. Yes, it's crazy but I can handle crazy because I meditated this morning.” It's just interesting how it resets the pathways of the neurochemicals. I'm a nerd with all that stuff so I go into… 

Dr. Lisa: You're a psychologist. It's to be forgiven, right? 

Dr. Kristi: Yeah, I'm a huge nerd but I'm a big believer in looking at how your brain adapts and how you can change the neural pathways of your brain with the chemicals going around based on certain states you're in. If you get yourself in that state even once a day, you're training your brain to get back to that state easier, and then, you can use that when moments of chaos happen. 

You can get yourself calm faster, much faster. I think people think you have to be a monk who meditates for hours in a cave and we don't have that kind of time and it just takes a few minutes a day. I would say sleep and some kind of morning practice for five minutes, whether it's journaling, breathing, meditation, stretching, yoga, whatever. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, yeah, and I heard some time away in there too. I think these ideas are so important, I think, for us to be talking out loud because I think I know that I do this. When you get super stressed and there’s work and there's all this stuff you have to do, it feels like the answer is to do more and to work faster and to spend more hours and to put in more time. What you're saying is that actually, the answer is to do the opposite of the impulse and stop. Go to bed, stop and meditate, go outside and that is actually the path to…

Dr. Kristi:  Absolutely. 

Dr. Lisa: Yeah, Thank you, Kristi.

Dr. Kristi: In fact, some of my clients, I will tell them to schedule a lunch break if they work through lunch and I tell them, “No, go walk around, go get some water, do something totally non-work-related because you will be more productive in that afternoon than if you had tried to push through.” You get more done by stopping.

Dr. Lisa: Wonderful reminder. Kristi, I feel you and I got a lot done today in this podcast. You shared so much wonderful information.

Dr. Kristi: Thank you.

Dr. Lisa: I really appreciate your time and your wisdom and I'm sure that our listeners today do too so thank you so much.

Dr. Kristi: Anytime, anytime. Happy to be here. Thank you, Lisa. 

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