Published: June 03, 2019 | Comments
You're running fast through the forest. Sweat drips off your forehead,
heart wildly beating as your eyes dart around to make sure you don't run
into a branch or trip over a rock because if you do, you're about to be
someone's appetizer. You're looking for the path that will lead you out of
sight from the Saber Tooth Tiger that advances behind you at a rapid pace.
You sneak away into a dark cave, out of view of the wild beast. Safe, at
last. Sorry, tiger, no snack for you.
Flash forward to the present moment. A customer is screaming at you on the
phone. The chat support "ding ding" sound keeps playing on your computer,
demanding instant answers. There are 58 unread emails in your inbox. Your
boss just called you into a meeting about that new project on your plate. A
coworker on your team is absent again, and you're picking up their slack.
Oh, and you have to get gas after work, plus stop by the grocery store to
pick up food for the dinner you have to make for the family. You haven't
deposited your paycheck yet. Oh, let's not mention that your mom isn't
doing so well, and your partner is asking you to pick up their dry cleaning
because they got called into a late meeting. Just another Tuesday!
And, on this fine Tuesday, it's not exactly a Saber Tooth Tiger chasing
after you, but it might as well be, considering you are stressed out AF and
wish you could slip away into a cave and hide.
But, is stress really the bad guy here?
What if, instead of trying to prevent stress, we understand that when we
feel stress, it could be a lesson to learn. A boundary to set. A cue to
take from our body and mind. Not in a woo-woo-way-out-there kinda way, but
in a realistic, "hey, you gotta slow down now or else you're gonna kick the bucket early because there's actually no
tiger chasing after you and this body can't handle years and years of
chronic stress" kinda way. Easier said than done.
Our bodies are well-fashioned machines to react in incredible ways;
however, living in fight-or-flight mode (and the shame around doing so)
will have a long term impact.
This isn't new. There are gobs of studies about how chronic stress can
affect your health.
What does that mean for you and your customers?
Let me start by shaking things up a bit:
- You're not supposed to be happy all the time
- You're not supposed to stuff your negative feelings
- You're not supposed to do everything to avoid being stressed
Yikes, that probably goes against a lot of what you've been told in the
past, especially when you're working with customers.
Aren't you supposed to smile into the mirror on your desk before you pick
up the phone, leave your "baggage" at the office door and go above and
beyond for customers day in and day out, no matter how stressed out and
horrible you feel?
We look for hacks. We look for ways to quickly alleviate stress. We work
extra hours to distract ourselves. We don't talk about stress. We stuff it
down. We "deal with it."
Not facing your true feelings - that's so 2018.
With companies like ban.do creating International I Cry At Work Day,
perhaps it is time to do things a bit differently while we're helping
Because, in order to take the best care of others, we must first take the
best care of ourselves.
Taking care of yourself isn't selfish. It's an act of service.
So, here are three tips for coping with stress while you're busy helping
customers and coworkers at work.
Tips for Coping with Stress at Work
Use Your Words
Parents often instruct fussy, crying toddlers with, "use your words" to
help them express and identify how they feel in the present moment. You may
feel a variety of emotions at work, some of which you may not really
understand because you haven't had the time to do so. Ignoring and stuffing
stress isn't going to make it any easier. Taking a short break away from
your desk to tune into your feelings and identify them is a great place to
start. Ask yourself:
- How does my body feel right now?
- How does my mind feel right now?
- What emotions do I feel right now?
With this general scan, you can start to identify how you actually feel in
that moment, acknowledge it, and respect it for what it is. It's not going
to immediately resolve the situation and remove the stress from your life,
but it will help you understand where you are right this very second, how you feel, which is helpful when you're
caught in the rush of overwhelm.
Calm Your Brain
Breathing calms your brain. It decreases your blood pressure. Of course,
this is all scientifically proven with many studies to back it up.
But who cares what the studies say - take a few deep breaths and know that
while it may not remove the overwhelm of the present moment, it can simmer
your nervous system. Have 36 seconds in between calls? Try this:
1. Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of 4
2. Hold your breath at the top for a count of 4
3. Release your breath through your mouth for a count of 4
4. Repeat steps 1-3 at least three times
Take Baby Steps
Stress is uncomfortable. When it builds up, it may lead to other
uncomfortable health-related issues. You, of course, just want to avoid
stress entirely and make it go away forever and ever, right? While that's
unrealistic, what is realistic is taking baby steps toward shifting what
needs to shift to point you in a less-Saber-Tooth-Tiger chasing you
response. This isn't to add more to your plate; in some cases, it is to
take away. Here are some baby step examples for you to consider:
Step you want to take: You want to work out for an hour a day, every day.
Why you want to take it: You feel more mentally clear when you exercise.
What you're doing now: You're working out 0 days currently.
Baby Step: Workout for 1-5 minutes a day, once a week and increase as time
Step you want to take: You want to get more sleep.
Why you want to take it: You need more energy during the day.
What you're doing now: You always go to bed so late.
Baby Step: Go to bed 1 minute earlier once a week and increase as you see
Step you want to take: You're so busy, and you want to have more time for
your family to relax at home.
Why you want to take it: You feel overwhelmed with your schedule because
you're always doing something.
What you're doing now: Scheduling everything on the calendar and living by
it minute by minute.
Baby Step: Schedule in one non-negotiable hour a week where you spend time
with your family doing absolutely nothing together, then increase to more
You have permission to feel your feelings, even at work. You're allowed to
cry; you're allowed to be stressed. But you're also allowed to take time to
get real with yourself. To not stuff what's going on. To define what stress
looks like for you. To talk about it. Bonus points if you're a contact
center supervisor or manager who is leading the way and talking about it
with the team. To know that it's not about being happy 24/7 but about being
human, being authentic and realizing that we're not being chased by
Saber-Tooth Tigers anymore.