I know someone will say they don’t feel or accept stress, but for some of us (even if we love our jobs) being a project manager can be stressful. As PM’s we are responsible for project success and team spirit, we are constantly checking the horizon for risks, are juggling stakeholder management and much more. Daily we are bombarded by e-mails, voicemails, texts, calls, the person stepping in asking for an unscheduled and urgent report, a new risk, virtual team complications and you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes we do what I refer to as……”tap dancing as fast and as hard as I can on a moving floor”!
For balance, these are 10 simple and cost effective ways I manage stress. Consider trying one or more:
- Incorporate extra steps into your day: I do this by taking at least one walk around the block during business hours. I work on a hospital campus, and purposely use the restroom in another building which forces me to step away from desk to walk for a few minutes each day. I avoid the elevator and take the stairs when possible. If appropriate, I walk to a co-workers office or desk to talk vs. creating another e-mail.
- Take mini vacations: This means I have pictures of my grandkids around me to make me smile and bring me a sense of calm when I gaze at them. It is only a second or two, but having a photo that recalls a pleasant memory or inspires in some way sparks joy and reduces stress.
- Thanks: Spend a minute or two saying thank you every day by penning an e-mail or handwritten note to someone deserving of genuine appreciation. This has many benefits and I’ve realized writing these notes, there is a physical smile on my face washing away stress.
- Stop and breathe. Try this one: Breathe in for the count of 6, hold your breath for the count of 6, then exhale for the count of 6. I use this technique-right before an important outbound call, the start of a meeting or when switching between projects and find it very helpful.
- Alive and Green: Studies indicate indoor plants can reduce your stress and improve productivity! Simple and easy with most plants only needing a little water once a week. You can find a small plant for very little cost. Some examples are ivy, an African Violet or even a bamboo plant. They improve the quality of the air around you and can offer you a measure of peace. I enjoy Gerber Daisies in my office.
- Snacks: Nutritional snacks can help you keep a sustained energy level. I try avoiding caffeine as much as possible because it can lower your mood and energy once the initial boost ends. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I love everything about a good cup of coffee – but I’ve realized too much caffeine is not helpful. Some snacks I enjoy are trail mix, banana chips, string cheese or huckleberry licorice. My choices might not be yours, but make sure you have enough water and snacks available in case you need a lift.
- Ha-Ha-Ha: Find ways to laugh. You know that funny coworker – go hang out with them by the water cooler and laugh. My daughter sends me funny sayings she finds on Pinterest every day. It takes just a moment to read them for a good giggle, but this not only helps me relax but often I can share the funny with others to brighten their day too. Sometimes I share one or two at the beginning a meeting, it just brings a lightness to the moment and calms others. Laughter is like medicine.
- Call Me: Phone a friend or have lunch with your friend in person. You know, your soulmate kind of friend. My best friend of 27 years lives far away, but we schedule a lunch call twice a month. We eat our lunch and connect heart to heart – different than the other days when we communicate via text. During these calls, a sign is posted on my door reading “If you hear laughing or even crying – everything is OK. I’m on the phone from 12-1 with my best friend”. Several of my coworkers saw the sign and decided to try it with their friends – we all agree it reduces stress!
- Melody: Music is another stress reliever. Studies indicate music improves your mood and even reduces stress. Music is often used for therapy. Now music is so easy readily available – I use my cell phone with earbuds and if no one minds I use the computer speakers making this pretty simple to incorporate into the business day. I listen to my favorite songs near the end of my day to help me transition from work to my family at home.
- Quote of the day: Find inspirational words from someone you respect and admire. This could be spiritual, a note from your child, an online quote or a passage from a book. Find something worth reflecting upon and read it before starting your day – maybe post it nearby your desk for a stress reliever.
I’m hoping one or more of these things will be something you can try. If you have other cost-effective stress reducers, please consider posting them below. I can’t be the only PM with a stressful workload!