6 Steps to Surviving Stress with a Smile

A little over a month ago, I got a promotion. I feel like my 10 years of working in the trenches with college students - responding to suicidal threats at 1:00 am, talking screaming moms out of their child's dorm room, and trying to teach roommates to communicate with actual words and not mean post-it notes - has finally paid off. Honestly, I'm thrilled, humbled and blessed!

While I am very happy about this new job, the position jump brought a lot of pressure and more responsibility than I have ever had before, all overnight. It made me feel like the whole world rested on my shoulders. 

They are paying me a lot, I better not mess up. 
They think I can do it, so now I have to do it. 
If someone I supervise messes up, the VP will be mad at me.

I have a feeling there are times in life when we all feel like a thousand pounds of responsibility has been dumped on us and we aren't sure if we can do it. Yet, it's there, ready or not. 

This new found pressure really threw me for a loop when I started to get moody with people in the office. I would huff and puff and roll my eyes when people interrupted me for "minor" reasons. I was teary-eyed when my boss gave me another big project while I was still working on 5 others. I treated people who needed me, and suddenly everyone needed me, like I didn't have time for them. 

The stress was making me ugly and more then once it crossed my mind that I wouldn't actually be able to do that. 

At the peak of my near nervous breakdown I realized that I had to adjust. I had to do something different. 

I am by no means an expert at juggling a busy life but here are a few things that I found helped me survive my first two months of management (which included preparing and giving 15 presentations, organizing and running 120 hours of training for our new student leaders, training a new employee, planning a leadership retreat for 30 people, supervising a summer staff, running a new hiring committee, 4 weekend trips, the ending of a budding relationship, time with family and friends, moving offices and moving apartments. Oh gosh my blood pressure goes up just thinking about it:)

1. Clear your mind enough to sleep by writing everything down. 

All the work tasks, all bills that need to be paid, all the items you need to buy at Target, all the places you have to be over the next few weeks. Once it’s all on paper, take a deep breath and fall into a needed sleep knowing that you won't forget anything. 

2. Empower your spirit with a real prayer.

Jesus, I can't do this without you. I don't even want to do this without you. It's not about me anyway. I need your kindness and courage today. Instant relief. 

3. Do whatever it takes to decrease your cortisol levels

Buy your favorite coffee, make time to exercise, take a long bath or play with your pet. Something that decreases the amount of cortisol in your blood. That's the stress hormone - and it swamps our ability to think clearly, shuts down our immune system and puts us in flight-or-flight mode. Who wants to live in fight mode?  

4. Remember that there is more to you than this situation. 

 A slip up, a I-just-can't-right now, an honest mistake, doesn't define you. Period. 

5. Equip your body for the long day.

EAT, drink enough water, carry a few Advil if you need them! We are crazy to think that our hunger and blood-sugar levels don't affect us...they do. 

6. Cut something out, even if it disappoints somebody.

I was supposed to sing at my church this weekend. I struggled with the idea of emailing the music director to tell her no, but eventually, I did it. I LOVE singing and I was afraid to look like a flake, but, I had to say no. So now, instead, I have time this weekend to get good sleep, spend time with God, clean my car, watch an episode of my favorite show, see my family and.....write this. 

Why it all matters?

I refuse to let this busy life make me ugly....but honestly, that does take more work and results in harder choices than I thought it would. More than being the best, more than money, more than others opinions of me...my mood, my LIGHT, matters. 

It matters not so that I look good, but so that Christ in me looks good. My little light is worth protecting...the world, my loved ones, those I now supervise, need it. I need it!