I've lived through some pretty stressful projects including: completing work under tight deadlines for internationally renowned clients, trying to move myself using only liquor boxes to pack with and my own tiny car, and even going to graduate school in a foreign country where I knew nobody with only two suitcases in hand.
During each of these stressful times I ate a lot of carbs, procrastinated until 2am, and wept intermittently. Luckily, I've gotten (slightly) smarter about how to navigate big changes or huge projects without devolving into tears and pasta-eating.
Here are four things you can do to to minimize stress while navigating change:
1. Plan ahead of time and build in plenty of breathing room.
I don't know about you, but often times I confuse not being totally lazy with actually trying hard. If I look back on previous endeavors, I realize that I was actually working at about 50% of my potential. Save yourself some stress by putting in hard work up front.
- Did you do your research and ask important questions like, "Do I need a visa?" "Who's going to be charge of the presentation set up?" "What are the client's expectations for turnaround time?"
- Did you contact a network of people who can help, attend workshops or seek support via an online community or new software?
- Did you ask your friends if they know anybody who can help? Do they have a moving company they'd recommend? Do they know anyone in your new city?
I find that when I know that I've tried my hardest, that I've done absolutely everything within my power to be successful at a given project, whether or not I succeed becomes almost secondary.
When you've really tried your hardest you're pretty likely to succeed, right?
2. Create community with those who are in a similar situation.
If you're losing your mind over your many projects, your fruitless house hunt, your never-ending job search or your frequently rejected manuscript, it's easy to feel like you're the only one going through this. But, shockingly enough, you're not. Other people in the world are stressed out, unemployed, or unpublished. While I wouldn't necessarily recommend hunkering down for a three hour whine-fest with your equally frustrated peers, it feels good to know you're not alone.
Allot yourself a bit of time to complain about this predicament and then see if these friends are trying anything you haven't thought of. Maybe your friend knows a graphic designer or a headhunter or a real estate agent. Combine and use your powers for good!
3. Give yourself a break.
If you've been going all out, trying your absolute hardest for the last two months, you're probably in need of a breather. Energy and creativity need to be replenished. So take some time (two hours, or a day, or a week) and completely distance yourself from the project.
Shower, change clothes, grab lunch somewhere new with someone who's not working on the same thing as you. Take a weekend away and read things that have absolutely nothing to do with what you're working on. Watch a fun, mindless movie. Go dancing and drink something fruity. Get a massage. Go for a long walk.
4. Remember your other strengths.
In the event that you really try your hardest and things don't work out, remember that you are not defined by this one small thing. You are not just a project manager or a teacher or a girlfriend. List some of your wonderful qualities, achievements or identities that exist outside of this change. You may be a great friend, a caring sibling, a fabulous chef or the owner of some gorgeous legs.
Your job title, address or relationship status isn't going to change all the other wonderful things about you.
5. Realize that the world will not end.
During graduate school, I was complaining to my fantastic friend, lamenting the possibility of getting a C (shock and horror!) on a paper. She leveled her eyes at me and said, "And you know what will happen if you get a C? The world will keep doing this (insert rotating hand motion here)."
And my friend was right. I know that this move, this job search, this presentation seem like the end-all-be-all right now. But they're not. Really. They're not. I didn't get my driver's license till I was nearly 17. I went through a terrible break-up at age 33. I didn't get into the first graduate school I applied to. And you know what? I'm still here and still fine!
How do you deal with pressure and change?
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