Day 35: Coping with work stress – the healthy way

I am just off the back of a 12 hour work day. It’s one of those weeks. It was one of those weeks, last week. And it will probably be one of those weeks next week.

I am in the midst of a work-stress attack!

This is me. This is my granola.

This is me. This is my granola.

I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty details, you’ll be happy to hear.

I think it’s the most boring thing on earth to listen to someone talk through the minutiae of a working day that you will never understand. Or care to understand. I have enough boring minutiae of my own to be bored by. Let’s be clear – nobody outside of your company, will ever be as incensed as you are about that pivot table that was pivot-ed incorrectly, even though you are 100% convinced that your co-worker actually did it on purpose (!), just to make you look bad, because you may or may not have accidentally undermined her in your weekly project meeting, but you only did it because she sent an email to your mutual stakeholders without CCing you, in a FLAGRANT violation of the AGREED-UPON internal process you set up SIX MONTHS AGO!

(Note, the events in this blog post are a work of fiction, and are not based on the true life of Michelle).

Suffice to say, it’s been a fast-paced and busy time, which is why I haven’t posted in a while.

The good news is, I’ve still been trying to live a healthy lifestyle throughout all of this. Not just, in spite of the stress, but to actually combat it!

A year or so ago, I learned the hard way that stress can have a huge impact on your physical well-being.

I had always dismissed stress as a real health threat. There were plenty of other things that would ‘get you’ before stress would – smoking, drinking, bad diet – we all know these things bring doom and gloom, cancer and heart disease, weight gain and bad skin.

Little did I realise that stress does the exact same thing! There are countless articles on this, but this is a nice easily digestible one from mindbodygreen.com.

So, one day, about a year ago, I was sitting in work, just out of a particularly difficult meeting, when suddenly my left arm started to go numb, my heart started racing, there was pressure on my chest, I couldn’t breathe and I started to over-heat…all of the symptoms of a heart attack! So, of course, I instantly got on Google Chat to my friend Marie (most logical thing to do in an emergency) to tell her I was having a heart attack, and to maybe call an ambulance.

Thankfully, she calmly pointed out that I probably wouldn’t be able to chat with her if I was really having a heart attack, and that I was probably having a panic attack. She was right. After a few minutes of breathing deeply with my head between my legs I started to feel normal again. (MORTO, by the way. Sitting at your desk, with your head between your legs, heavy breathing, is not a professional look.)

Funnily enough, that hugely scary situation was not enough to wake me up to the reality of the stress I was under.

It was only after I started balling my eyes out crying, in a pub, on a Sunday, surrounded by happy people, in the middle of eating a huge plateful of French Toast, just before going back to the office for more work, that I realised something needed to change. It was only then that I took an objective look at myself and really saw what the stress had done to me – in addition to heart attack symptoms, crying in public, eating French Toast and working on a Sunday, I had definitely gained weight, my skin was gray and spotty, I was short-tempered and absent-minded, I couldn’t concentrate on conversations with family and friends…and the list of terrible things goes on.

After this shocking realisation, I made the decision that I needed to pro-actively dig myself out of the stress hole I had dug and buried myself in.

So, I did a number of things – attended some good classes, had conversations with some experts and got some good advice that really helped me.

The following is a list of the best pieces of advice I got, that I’ve adapted for myself.

  • The corporate world is not the world. What happens in the office cannot make or break you, as you’re a lot more than an employee. You’re a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a friend. Keep perspective on this!
  • Take time to breathe during the day. When you’re stressed you don’t breathe properly. Every time you get up from your desk take a huge breath in and breathe the stress out.
  • Take time to drink water – you can be guaranteed you’re dehydrated when you’re stressed. Taking the 2 minutes to re-fill your water bottle will pay dividends.
  • Schedule some ‘you’ time at some point during the day and do not, under any circumstances re-schedule.
  • Think about making the ‘you’ time exercise time. As soon as I hit the gym I forget about my problems for a little bit.
  • Eat healthfully where you can. There will be times when all you want is bad stuff. But when you have the option choose vegetables.

This time around, whilst I’m still doing 12 hour days, which should be a big no-no, I’m not nearly as bad as I was before. Kicking back with a scented candle, some wine and some blog-therapy also helps!

IMG_20141007_202551

Stress therapy. Scented candles are my crack cocaine.

FYI – I’m just going to skip over the other days in the challenge, and pretend we’re now on Day 35. Cheating, perhaps, but it’s the best way for me to get back on track.

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