5 Ways to Deal with Stress and Grief while Balancing Your Work Life
A few months ago, I was at Wizard World St. Louis, eagerly waiting to interview one of their featured guests. A text came through from my husband, saying only, “Please call me when you can.” I stepped away, and got the news I was dreading: my father-in-law had passed away.
Getting this message was hard enough, but receiving it in the middle of a con floor – unable to get to my husband and family quickly – was devastating. The first people I told were the publicist of the con guest and a PR team member for Wizard World (both of whom could not have been more compassionate and lovely to me.) I ran from the hall, tearfully dodging fans and trying to keep myself together until I could get to my car and, privately, break down.
These moments, unfortunately, happen to us all somewhere at some point – but that doesn’t make it easier when they do. We are forced to stop what we’re doing, forget any “plan” we had, and take action. However, what we do in the days, weeks, or months that follow is important on many levels.
Beyond the emotional and physical stress of these moments, we are expected to (and often want to) quickly move forward with our “normal” lives. Work can be an escape, particularly for those lucky enough to love what they do, but only when are we “ready.”
Obviously, your version of “ready” largely depends on the situation. However, I want to share a few things I’ve found that have kept me going:
Walk, Don’t Run
While you may feel like you need to jump right back into the deep end, now is the time to tip-toe back into the water. While you may feel the emotional stress of the situation begin to diminish, the physical impact of that stress can last longer than you think. Pushing yourself too far too fast can lead to bigger setbacks. So walk, don’t run, back to full throttle in the first few weeks.
Allow Yourself to Say “No”
While you may want to say “yes” to anything and everything that takes your mind off of the difficult situation, consider saying “no” on occasion. When my mom passed away a few years ago, all I wanted was distraction. But, after a few weeks, I realized that I needed to give myself a pass sometimes on things I didn’t “need” to do that stressed me out. Even fun, happy things. My emotional anxiety meter was at-or-near capacity at all times – meaning even the smallest irritation could send me into a tailspin. So, if it feels like it might be more than you can handle, say “no” – even at the last minute. People will understand.
Speaking of understanding, keep reminding yourself that you need and deserve time to heal. Others may have time limits on how long it takes to recover, but only you know for sure. Don’t feel bad for not being 100%, and ask for time when you need it.
In the workplace, don’t be afraid to talk to your boss or, if that doesn’t get you a positive response, your HR manager. You may not be able to get time off, but hopefully you’ll be able to receive some support.
Ask for Help
I’m terrible at this one all of the time, but worse in times of stress. I don’t ever want to put my issues on someone else. What I’ve had to drill into my head is that people want to help. People you wouldn’t ever think would want to lend a hand, take a task off of your plate, or run an errand for you DO, IN FACT, WANT TO DO THIS. It makes them feel like they’ve done something to alleviate your pain, and gives you one less thing to think about. So when they offer, take them up on it. At least sometimes.
Share Your Story
Like I’m doing now. I’m not a therapist, nor am I a completely centered and totally well-adjusted woman. I’m a human, and I’ve had a lot of difficulties in my life. Not nearly as bad as so very many others, but it all hasn’t been sunshine and rainbows. So, I’m sharing my story to both help me heal, and maybe help a few others deal with the realities that life throws our way sometimes.
You don’t have to share it in a public forum like this. You could simply write whatever you need to get out, and save it to share with your future self. I have Facebook posts, emails, and the beginnings of blogs that will never be sent or published that I occasionally open and read. It may seem like I’m putting myself right back in the middle of the pain, but often it reminds me how far I’ve actually come.
Again, I’m no therapist or self-help guru. I’m just a person who had to navigate some unpleasant waters – and thought maybe a little of what I’ve learned may help others. For more, here are some articles about giving yourself some time to heal from anything from day-to-day stress to the rougher moments in life: