Tag: Stress

How our System Revenges Rest

Our days have accumulated tasks and responsibilities that behave like invasive plants: if you neglect their maintenance, even for a day, they threaten to pull the entire enterprise asunder. The less societal privilege you have, the more true this feels. People with good credit, power and seniority within their organizations, and an emergency fund can afford to (momentarily) fall behind. Their apologies for a delayed email, a late bill, a late kid will be accepted. For everyone else, drop one ball and risk catastrophe: lost hours, lost jobs, lost credit, lost cars, lost homes.

How Our System Revenges Rest – by Anne Helen Petersen

Anne Helen Petersen is one of my favorite writers and her newsletter is a must-read for me. Even if it does take me some weeks to get to it.

It hits to how I feel work has always been through my entire adult life. Keep going. Keep running. Always work. Always push. Keep the plates spinning.

One misstep will lead to disaster. And I’m one of the privileged ones.

Stability Shutdown

I remember when government work was stable. My parents told me about working for the government in glowing terms. The stability. The good pay and benefits.

But I am a contractor for the government. The pay is good. The benefits are all over the place and there’s a threat of shutdown almost every year.

The last time was 2014. I got a nice unpaid vacation for 21 days. In 2015 it almost happened again. And tonight I got to enjoy the same stress. Only this time they settled it on Thursday instead of midnight Friday.

Each time they do the bare minimum. The government is funded… Until Jan 21st. The Democrats didn’t want to be seen as the cause of the shutdown which the Republicans would have tried to pin squarely on them. So the Senate voted to help the GOP out and keep working.

Not that any of them are going to work. They get to go on vacation. While I get to finish mine with a job to come back to. And hope we don’t go through this all over again next month.

Beyond the Reboot #7: Stress Management

Customer service is thankless work. You never get noticed when things go right, only when they go wrong. Everyday is a pile of new problems with more customers needing your help. The work is stressful and finding ways to manage that stress is a problem in itself.

Find ways to blow off steam constructively. While at work, consider taking a walk, listening to music or reading through your Yay Me! File.

I recommend keeping a Yay Me! File to read over when I need a morale boost. A Yay Me! File is simply a collection of all the nice emails, notes and Thank Yous I’ve received for work I’ve done. I keep a folder in email where I save all the nice emails I receive. I archive those messages into Evernote so I can keep them outside of Outlook.

I also keep a text file in Evernote where I copy down nice things people have said to me when I’ve done work for them. It can lift my spirits when I’ve had a rough day or when I get overly stressed out.

One of my biggest problems is leaving work at work. Even when I leave work, my mind will often be on the difficult customer I had or a problem I can’t seem to solve that’s eating at me. Try to leave it all behind when you get home. It does no good to worry about the day behind you.

Think of the evening ahead and do something fun. Turn on the TV or play a video game and turn off your brain. Once you’ve stopped worrying about the problem, your unconscious mind will get to work an answer may come to you later that night or when you least expect it.

Managing stress can be one of the hardest parts of a customer service job. All day long you’re helping other people with their problems. It’s important to remember you need help with your own problems and you need to relax and unwind too.

When I get home I ask my wife how her day was and we talk about it. And I get some stories from her about the craziness of managing activities for a group of senior living homes for people with dementia. And then I get to share my day, I talk about the frustrations of the day. I talk about the best parts. I talk about anything that’ been bugging me about the day.

It’s the perfect time to get anything out of my head I need to in a constructive way. I’m not yelling at her. Nor am I blaming anyone for things that went wrong or the troubles I’ve had. But I get the pent-up feelings out so I don’t take those same feelings to work with me.

When I lived alone, I would come home, throw on my headphones and turn some music up. Good thrashy death metal or maybe some super fast techno and just dance around my room. Or sing along and throw myself on to my bed at the end.

It was a great cathartic release.

There is no perfect advice for beating stress since different things work for different people. But find what works for you. I’ve been known to put in a video game and mow down aliens or zombies for a few hours to burn off stress. Or get in the car, roll the windows down, turn the music up and just drive down a beautiful stretch of road.

When I feel the most out of it and just needing to get away, I go to the movies. I love losing myself in some other world for a couple of hours. My problems disappear when the world is at stake or when there’s a killer on the loose who needs to be caught.

Sometimes escapism is the best way.

In the end, I feel better. And because I do, I can be better at what I do. A clearer head leads to better problem solving and making my customers happy.

If you’re breathing, you’re OK

Take a deep breath. Let it slowly fill you. Pretend all of this air is all the frustration you’ve had in your day so far. Then let all that air out. Not too fast, but in a slow gust. Breathe out slowly. Let the anger and frustration out. Free it from your brain and lower your stress level. Feel lighter and happier. Feel like you’ve let out all of the poison inside your body.

Everything is better now. Everything is fine now. It will all be OK. It is all OK. It has all been OK since the first day and the first time you took in your first breath. It has always been OK. You’ve been fooling yourself ever since that it’s not OK.

Breathe in. Breath out. Repeat. Everything is ok. It always has been.

Comfortable Surroundings

The environment you live in directly affects how you feel. I am not talking necessarily about the world outside your physical address but the space within. Recently, my wife and I moved from a too-small-for-us, cluttered apartment to a nearly 1,00 square foot condo unit we’re renting. The change has been a breath of fresh air.

Instead of an overflowing kitchen with a book shelf and a dresser needed to hold all our pots and pans, we now have a spacious kitchen with drawers and cabinets to spare. Instead of an apartment lacking real closets, with Target and IKEA acquired shelving units suffocating our dining area, we have a series of huge closets.

The list goes on but the point is made. The new place is much more open and as a result, there is less clutter everywhere. There are less piles. The entire place feels more open, airy and inviting. As a result, my mood has been uplifted. I no longer feel dread about coming home. I feel happiness. I look forward to it everyday.

I feel freer. I feel more alike and awake. I am inspired to wind down on our couch and write late into the night about whatever comes to my mind. I feel as a gust of fresh air was blown into my life and into my new home.

I am excited for the change and the creative opportunities this new space will hold.

I don’t take the New Year as my opportunity to rethink my habits and resolutions. I take the moving to a new place as the start of a new page of my life. The year is just a number on a calendar. But a new place to live offers up such a bounty of exciting and endless possibilities. The layout and decoration of the space. How the space will be utilized.

The simple fact that we now have freedom to devote portions of our living area to projects where before we never had the space to devote anything to any one task.