Stress Management Tip for Financial Aid Professionals
I recently reviewed the questions in an online poll about how stressed we are at work. The sources of stress offered were:
- Inconsiderate colleagues/office politics
- Time pressures/excess working hours
- Job insecurity
- Poor support/supervision
No doubt, many of us have experienced at least one of these situations, if not several of them.
There is so much going on these days in the financial aid office with seemingly more work and pressure on its way. When was the last time that you went through a week without hearing the word “stress”? Even if we have not said the word ourselves, we hear it from others.
How would it feel if you found a new way to lower your stress? What would your work day look like if you cut your stress level in half or even more?
When we say we are feeling stressed, we imply that it is something that is happening to us. We feel uptight, pressed for time, overwhelmed, or have too much to do. The sensation can feel palpable and tangible.
It is natural to want to tell others about our stress. Talking about it can help us temporarily feel better; it seems to lighten the load for a period of time. It can give us perspective to compare what we are experiencing to others’ experiences.
Have you ever absorbed someone else’s stress? Or perhaps you wanted them to keep it to themselves because it added to your stress load? Regardless of how powerless you might feel to avoid stress, have you considered that you have a choice about how you respond to stressful situations?
Often, thoughts and feelings of stress mask underlying anxieties or negative self-talk such as:
- I can’t say no to an assignment
- I may drop one of the many balls that I am juggling
- I am afraid of failing
- I am going to let my boss down
- I am going to get yelled at if I don’t deliver
- I manage my time poorly
- The expectations for me are unreasonable
What would happen if we chose different thoughts about our stress situation? What would it feel like to replace the current stress-filled messages with affirmations, such as:
- I choose to not be upset by this situation
- I choose to make wise investments of my time
- I am resourceful and capable of handling my workload
- I can say no to anything if I have to or want to
- I accept the consequences of my actions
- I choose to let others deal with their stress in their own way
- I see my work challenges as an opportunity instead of a problem
Here’s the great news! Behavioral science indicates that much of our behavior is directly correlated to our self-talk, the messages that we give ourselves. It is absolutely possible to lower our stress levels JUST by changing these messages. We already know that reducing stress creates higher, sustainable levels of energy, a sense of inner contentment, and a “no regrets” path to a satisfying, healthier work life.
For every situation we encounter that we think is stressful, we have a choice – we can “react” to the situation or we can “respond” to it. What’s the difference? Many times when we react, we don’t even realize that we have made a choice. We do the first thing that comes to mind, which in a stressful situation, can be something that we regret later. When we respond, we acknowledge that we have many choices, pause, consider those choices, and intentionally act in a way that we want to act. That subtle but important difference between reacting and responding can dramatically lower our stress levels.
So, the next time you’re in a stressful situation, I encourage you to practice the discipline of exercising the muscle of your choice. Could it be true that being stressed is a choice? Despite all of the cultural training that it is not, the reality is that it is one of many choices that we make daily, largely without realizing that we do.
Choosing how you think about stress is worth a try, don’t you think?
Evan Roth is a Certified Executive Coach and Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner. He currently serves as Executive Director, Organizational Effectiveness and Chief Learning Officer for Nelnet, Inc., an NYSE traded, diversified educational services company.