This week was all about #mentalhealthawareness. Ordinarily it passes me by, but the theme of the 2018 campaign, stress, has really caught my attention.
I’m one of these people who has always worked better under pressure. It wasn’t until I got my first job in the press office of a busy police force, that I realised there were jobs perfectly suited to people like me!
I thrive on the urgency of a situation. I get a kick from turning work around in very tight timescales. The adrenaline rush of a fourteen hour day and the feeling driving home with music pulsing through the car speakers, is my big reward.
That can’t be a constant though and I’ve come to realise there’s a big difference between preferring to work under pressure and having to work under pressure.
For me, the first is a good catalyst to get stuff done and, 99% of the time feel happy that quality isn’t compromised. The second is a state whereby I become paralysed by the pressure. So much to do that it becomes difficult to see what needs to be done first and I have personally felt unable to navigate the musts, shoulds and coulds because of it – mental paralysis.
Constant pressure causes stress and for me this leads to job dissatisfaction, because nothing gets done properly and consequently imposter syndrome kicks in – ‘I’m not good enough!’ I LOVE WORK, so when this happens it becomes quite distressing.
As well as having a full-time, often challenging, sometimes extremely rewarding job, I also have two small children – my ‘squatters’ (6 and 2) and a husband who works shifts. I can’t afford to be stressed!
What’s really helped me is to recognise the little things I start to do and feel when I’m falling into a state of stress that can be mentally and physically quite damaging for me. If I can spot it quick enough, I can try and change my behaviour.
A couple of weeks ago I could feel I was going back down a glum, yet frantic path. So, I consciously did things differently:
- I worked a few days of normal length – Going home when my contracted hours were worked seemed counterproductive to getting stuff done, but it gave me space to think.
- I wrote a list of three things I needed to achieve/deliver each day that week.
- I purposely left my laptop in work .
- I ‘unplugged’ from social media so I couldn’t see work and the goings on (I’m always available on the phone should they REALLY need me).
- I scheduled a quiet/admin day and got on top of the stuff that I felt was spiralling.
- I acknowledged how I felt and WHY and, I started to write it down. Writing it down means I’m not keeping it to myself – it’s no longer a secret – and that in itself is a big help!
What’s been a revelation for me during this last week is the volume of people in my line of work speaking out and saying the same. This week my Twitter feed has been full of people I admire being really honest about how stress has made them feel; how it’s made those closest to them feel and how they’ve found their own coping mechanisms.
I’m keen to hear how others cope with work-related angst. I’m getting there, but I’m not there yet >>>