Staying Productive During Times of High Stress
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Stress Management Coaching
Staying productive can be a challenge even in the best of times. I don't know about you, but this past week provided challenges for me while I waited with the rest of the country for the election results.
And all of us have been dealing with the stress of living through a pandemic and adjusting our lives and our work accordingly.
All of this stress impacts us in ways we are both aware of and unaware of, including our ability to stay on task, keep things in perspective, and be as productive as possible.
Staying productive during times of high stress can feel like an impossible task.
Yet life must go on. We have to do the best we can. And when we can't control what is going on around us, we have to do what we can to control our response to what is going on. With that in mind, here are some specific suggestions that you might consider if staying productive during these times of high stress has felt challenging for you.
1. Confront Your Stress
As much as you might like to, you can't hide from the stress in your life. You need to acknowledge it and do what you can to confront it head-on. You might be able to stay productive in the short term, but if you don't tackle your stress as soon as possible, it will catch up to you. It's just a matter of time. And when it does start to catch up with you, you may start to suffer physical or emotional symptoms that can interfere with your ability to live the life you want to be living.
2. Focus On What You Can Control
Sometimes the stress you are dealing with isn't something that you have any control over. You certainly don't have a lot of control regarding COVID, for example, except to follow the recommended guidelines. Many of the decisions about your work and your kids' schooling are out of your hands. But dealing with those decisions on a day-to-day basis can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. If this is the case, your best bet is to take control of the things in your life that you can control.
3. Honor Your Productive Hours
Most of us perform better at certain hours of the day. Some people get their best work done in the morning, and some people are more productive at night. Figure out when you work the best, and honor those hours. This time of productivity is doubly important when you are dealing with stress. Your productive hours may be different during times of high stress. So be mindful of how well you can function at different times of the day. If you find your mind wandering or you can't focus on the task at hand, perhaps taking a walk would help. Or make sure you are staying hydrated, and you are eating well. Make it a priority to get the sleep you need. All of these practices will help you be productive during your particular productive hours in the day.
4. Ask For Help When You Need It
Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If you are struggling with a specific project at work, ask for assistance. Or maybe you need to vent to a friend to relieve some of your stress. The main thing is to be willing to admit it when you need help and don't be afraid to ask for it. All of us need help on occasion. It isn't a sign of weakness. In fact, it's a sign of maturity if you ask for help with you need it.
5. Keep Things Simple
If you are struggling with severe stress, you should keep things simple to keep from feeling overwhelmed. If possible, try holding off tasks that need high concentration until you feel more able to deal with the stress. It's also essential that you focus on one task at a time. Multitasking saps your focus at the best of times. It is an absolute productivity killer when you are already stressed.
6. Tune Out
If your stress comes from outside influences, it may be time to tune out. Take a social media break. Tune out of Twitter and Facebook for a while. Stop watching the news. The world will continue without constant monitoring on your part. Yet your constant monitoring can create unnecessary stress on your mind and your body. So decide to give yourself a break. Read. Meditate. Go for a walk or run. Do something that breaks up social media's noise and the news that can often cause you stress.
7. Don't Beat Yourself Up
If you are already going through a stressful situation, the last thing you need is to be beating yourself up. Cut yourself some slack. Perhaps you need to step away from the situation for a bit. That's okay! You need to take care of yourself as opposed to beating yourself up.
8. Use Rewards Strategically
You might want to create a rewards system for yourself. Set a goal and decide what a good reward would be for yourself once you have met the goal. Using a rewards system can help to create a new outlook on the otherwise stressful situation.
- Find a piece of paper, or use a notes app to jot down the things that stress you out in life.
- Look at your stressors and figure out which ones you can control and which ones you can’t.
- Take one simple action towards dealing with one single stressor that you CAN control.
When you feel stressed out and overwhelmed, it is important to remember to be gentle with yourself. Exercise self-care. Practice good health habits, including getting the sleep you need. Take time away doing something that relaxes you and takes your mind off your stress. These things can help you deal with the stressors that are part of our life experience right now.
No one can take better care of you than you can. So, I recommend you take responsibility for yourself and your self-care now so that you can continue to be productive in these times of high stress.
Until next time.
If you need some more tips for how to manage your stress, take advantage of this freebie, "Cheat Sheet to Stress Management Tools," at https://kittyboitnott.lpages.co/cheat-sheet-on-stress-management/.