Meg Seitz

I’m not sure where in the course of time, history, or social culture we started answering the all-too-familiar question, ‘How are you?’ with this all-too-familiar answer: ‘Good – busy, but good’ – but it happened.  If you start to really, truly listen to how often you hear other people say it – or perhaps how often you hear yourself say these words – you’ll realize that we’ve come to a place where we immediately associate how we are as a person with how much we have to do or how many places we need to be.  To me, those are two different answers to two different questions.

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I experience that same phenomena with how we handle stressful situations like work deadlines or upcoming exams, if you’re in college or graduate school.  

‘How are you doing?’
‘I’m good, I’m totally stressed out, but I’m good.’

What’s different about this question and answer though is that the answer is then followed by a deep explanation or monologue as to why or how said person feels that much stress.

Please stop doing that.

When you do that – or when you say something similar – a couple of things happen.  First, within five seconds, you’ve just communicated to someone else that you’re feeling completely out of control.  Now, let’s say that person is a professor, a mentor, or a colleague who just heard about an opportunity that might be a good fit for you.  You might have just unwillingly stopped that opportunity in its tracks because you’re stressed out.  Is that professor, mentor, or colleague going to mention that opportunity to you now?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Regardless, you’ve just built a wall.

Secondly, when you put that into the world or say that to someone else, you’re unknowingly giving that anxiety to someone else.  They’ll probably feel it then, too.  And that’s not their responsibility.  You’ll justify it by saying you’re just being honest.  Which I totally get.  But, I don’t believe this honesty is helping you or anyone who hears it.

So, this is a three-part call to action – A: to be more precise with your words and language; B: to be more self-aware as to how you share what’s going on in your world; and, C: to figure out how best YOU can manage stress during crunch time.  Life hint: When you figure out Part C, Parts A and B fall into their respective, right place.

So here are five strategies to get you thinking about Part C: How YOU manage stress during crunch time:

Think fuel.

This will sound obvious, but bear with me.  If you’re driving a car from Point A to Point B, that car will need gasoline – the transparent, petroleum-derived liquid used as fuel in an engine.  Instead of thinking of yourself as a car, think of yourself as an engine – you’ll need fuel to power through what you’re experiencing or what you’re about to experience, whether that’s a presentation for the Board of Directors or that statistics exam.  So, think about it: What kind of fuel does your brain, body, heart, soul need in order to do what you need to do?  Special note: Your fuel will be different than the fuel your roommate, sister, girlfriend, mother, brother, or boyfriend requires.  This is your fuel.  Getting clear on your fuel is easier than it sounds.  Stop where you are and close your eyes. What do you need right this minute?  Sleep?  Music?  A yoga class?  You’ll probably end up coming up with 3-5 things that you can swap in and out as you need them.  

Make choices that’ll support you.  

It’s usual during this time – when we have, like, zero time – to start filling up our calendars up with MORE things.  Well, if I’m going to be in that part of town to pick up that thing for that presentation, I might as well see if he or she is available for a quick coffee to talk about that proposal.  Question – if you’re stressed out and need time to yourself to work, think, plan, or study, how does that choice support you?  You are at the center of your life, so think about every decision you make as an opportunity to support you.  If that coffee date to talk about that proposal doesn’t support you right now – don’t do it.  This is THE time to start getting REALLY GOOD at saying no.

Watch how much ‘extra’ you think will actually help you.  

We can be real extra during times like these.  Well, maybe if I include one more example, that’ll get me some bonus points; maybe if I stay 30 more minutes, I’ll get noticed.  Special note: You really don’t get any kind of cosmic points for being extra.  It’s just a head game you’re playing with yourself.  We convince ourselves that working harder – or appearing like we’re working harder – will deliver us more success.  More often than not, it doesn’t.  Do what you need to do, do it well, do great work, then move on.

Open the window.  

Spring-going-into-summer is obviously one of the better seasons at which this one is possible.  Yes, it’s about letting in the fresh air or sunlight or warmth, but it’s also about listening to the world out there.  I do this a lot when I’m in my own head – when you open the window, you feel the motion of cars, you hear the birds or dogs or people talking, and you realize quickly that all this is not all about you.  The world is big and full and there’s a lot going on everywhere.  This too shall pass.

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Instead of thinking of yourself as a car, think of yourself as an engine.

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Stop complaining.  

Just do it.  In stressful times, we can get into stress competitions: ‘Well, here’s what I am dealing with…’ or ‘That sounds like a lot, but here’s everything I have to do by Monday…’  We try to top each other with either how much we have to do or how much is expected of us.  Quite honestly, I’ve found that those women who are the most eager to share those lists are the most insecure.  Like this stress or to-do list is a sign of not only importance, but also value.  It’s not.  Stop complaining.  Just do the work you need to do.  Again, you don’t receive cosmic points for how long your list is.  You get points – real points, points you feel, points that matter – when you put your head down, and you do really great work.

So just go out there, and do really great work.  And the next time someone asks how you’re doing – tell them that: You’re managing a lot right now, but you’re up to some really great work.

 

Meg Seitz is the Founder and Managing Creative Partner at toth shop, an agency with one goal: Elevate your brand’s content through powerful writing, creativity, and strategy. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Kenyon College and an MBA from Wake Forest University School of Business. 

 

Comments (1)

  1. Meagan Hooper

SUCH great advice for pacing my time, energy and expectations! Thank you, Meg!

 

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