Managing Stress: One Motto That Puts It into Perspective

We have all heard sayings that resonate with us and seem to stick with us wherever life takes us—our personal mottos if you will. Some simple, yet powerful words that I try to live by are “It is what it is.”

These five words have helped me navigate some difficult situations. I share it often with my Stelter co-workers, in hopes that it gives them relief when they too find themselves facing a challenge in some area of life.

Today is Stress Awareness Day. Are you able to say, “It is what it is” when the going gets tough—and when the tough seemingly becomes too much to handle?

I think you’d agree (maybe shaking your head vigorously) that we in the nonprofit world tend to be pushed by both heartfelt passion and steadfast commitment. We don’t take our responsibilities lightly, about our mission, absolutely, but also about the very real accountability that we must live up to, for those who depend on our programs and services, and to the donors who have invested money, time and interest in our cause.

Did you know that the nonprofit sector is the third largest employment industry in the country? A sizable force of work for good, with a 19 percent turnover rate (along with a never-ending “revolving door” in a lot of fundraising shops). We must do better to keep the good workers within our profession. Perhaps that starts with acknowledging that even when the work we do is for a greater, noble cause, stress in the workplace still exists.

Managing your stress means you must first practice what you preach

Let’s start today by giving ourselves permission to lighten the load: The worry, the fears, the insecurities. What’s weighing you down and clogging your ability to freely work to improve the health, welfare, higher aspirations and lives of others? Lay it down and let it go when you’ve got to step away.

It is what it is gives us permission to accept a person and/or situation for who and what they are. Release the need for control when it is beyond our power; and stop harmful negative self-talk when the outcome may not be what we wanted despite best efforts. It’s about release and respect; acknowledge that there will be stressful situations in our lives but keep them in healthy perspective.

Here are some other tried-and-true tips from the Stelter wheelhouse to better manage the stress.

SEE A BETTER WAY. You’ve got to see it to believe it. When you feel yourself naturally going to that crazed or self-defeating internal stress level (we’ve all felt it, am I right?), stop, slow it down and visualize yourself successfully managing the situation. It’s similar to “think before you speak”, but now it’s “see before you act.”

TAKE A TIMEOUT. Ten or 15 minutes away can do wonders. Take a quick walk outside the office, preferably by yourself or if you’re with others, no work talk. Water the office plants. Find a quiet place to meditate. However you choose to let go for a little while, research shows that it’s time well spent. Taking regular mental breaks during the day improves productivity and creativity.

THEN TAKE BACK CONTROL. Take back control by doing one little thing every day that helps you feel empowered and in control of your day, whether it’s a phone call to set up a donor meeting or tackling the update to your volunteer database. Do that one thing first thing in the morning to get your day started off right.

SMART PEOPLE DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING. BUT THEY KNOW WHEN TO ASK FOR HELP. Some of the people I respect most will certainly admit to not knowing everything. But they are continually learning and seeking excellence, not perfection, in their work. They also make time to thank those who helped them out along the way. Speaking of thanking people …

PRACTICE GRATITUDE.  Flip those draining negative thoughts away (yes, again, stop for a moment and imagine yourself actually doing it) and bring in thoughts and actions of gratitude. You’ll begin to notice a lighter feeling within yourself. Start small with these tiny but powerful acts of gratitude:

  • Say thank you to someone at least every day. “I just wanted to say thank you” makes others feel appreciated, which leads to better relationships, communication and communal goal achievement.
  • Notice little moments of beauty: The leaves changing, kind exchanges between strangers, a spectacular sunset. When you pay attention to the little things, they add up to one larger moment of gratitude.
  • Take time to smile and laugh with others.

Feel free to share some techniques that you and your co-workers use to zap, or at least minimize, stress from work situations. Anything that’s particularly unique about the nonprofit profession that you feel makes it especially prone to stress?

Before we leave you, here are two quick resources, one print and one online, that might be helpful for better managing stress, both in the workplace and outside of it.

The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit: Strategies for Impact Without Burnout

This book walks you through the process of building a happier, healthier organization from the ground up, with employee well-being taking a front seat alongside organizational performance to drive positive cultural change.

The Happiness Podcast

With hundreds of podcasts to choose from, each about 15 minutes long, as well as a blog, book titles and other resources in one place, you’ll be happy you at least checked out this site.

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