I’ve been thinking a lot about stress lately, particularly in the context of work. It’s almost a laughable industry joke with consultants that getting an email or text from the partner causes more heart-racing than anything else in your life.
While I’ve done a good job of not caring what position people are in on the hierarchy, the stress of this job is real - if you let it become real.
I find I get stressed out and worked up when work starts piling on and deadlines approach, sure. But I’m WAY more stressed when my performance isn’t up to my expectations. So in that sense maybe it’s not stress as much as it’s annoyance with myself. There’s nothing more frustrating to me than that sinking feeling of “I should be better than this”. I felt that at one point this week and it sucked. In addition, I was pretty frustrated with a team member and literally had to walk out of the room because I could no longer control my emotions and I didn’t want to be disrespectful. Essentially I just needed to blow off some steam, but I don’t enjoy feeling that worked up in the office.
One of my favourite authors, James Clear, has a quote along the lines of “its amazing how often I think I need to make a radical shift, when really I just need a drink of water, a walk around the block, or a good night’s sleep.”
The difficult part with consulting is that everything is always due yesterday. In that sense, work by nature needs to be rushed. There are two issues I have with this: 1) rushing breeds errors and often inefficient methods, and 2) it prohibits deep thinking. You don’t get the opportunity to take a step back, analyze a few ways to approach a problem, or spend time on deep research and learning.
The fact that those two issues exist is irrelevant. Time is money in this industry so the rushing isn’t going anywhere soon. Instead I think my mind would be best served by embracing the chaos and sprints. Next time I’m forced to rush by a client or team member, I’m going to smile, breathe deep, and get after it!
I’ve also been aware lately of the saying “working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion”. Because I left a world where I decided what each day would look like, I’m hyper-aware of my enjoyment factor with this job.
So far, it’s awesome. I genuinely like going to work and digging into these problems and being intellectually challenged each day. That being said, I think you can enjoy your job and still want a break from it. You can enjoy the job, be invested in the work, and still feel stress - the key is to have methods to deal with it.
My sister gifted me a fantastic book which I’ve been pretty good about sticking to, called the Five Minute Journal. It’s become very popular, but I find it really nice for two reasons:
1) the entries allow for you to gain perspective. When my “3 things I want to accomplish” that day are all work-related, it shows I may need to focus on personal life a bit more in the coming weeks. It also helps me to understand what I’m truly grateful for and how insignificant a slip-up at work is in the grand scheme of things.
2) it’s an easy early win to the day. Making the bed, and filling out this journal as soon as I wake up are tiny actions, but they allow me to feel a sense of achievement and get set for the day.
Whether it’s writing in a journal, or taking a walk outside, Im always going to take action when I feel that stress bug creep up on me, because stifling the stress and letting it take over day after day is a long-term losing strategy.
Cheers for reading,