When I first signed up to write this post, I never imagined that end of the school year stress would begin as early as March for many of us, so I was a little uneasy about what to write. After much thought and consideration, I finally said to myself, regardless of the type of stress or when it began, we still must implement the same mindset and behaviors to close out the end of the year. Whether you or finishing this year in May or June, in the actual building or at home; all you can do is your professional best.
First, and foremost, organize yourself, so that you don’t miss critical deadlines or have to “pull all-nighters” to get the job done. Make checklists for the week, and for individual days. If you realize or feel like your workload is impossible, speak up. Sometimes, others aren’t aware of your workload; so, it’s up to us to communicate concerns. Many tasks assigned at the end of the year require us to provide the same information to different people in varying formats. If the same information is being requested from multiple people, using different forms, ask can it be submitted in a shared drive, or ask one of the persons requesting will they accept the information in a different format. Although it’s tough, realize that sometimes you might have to say “no” in a nice way when colleagues ask for favors. Here are a few nice ways to say ‘no”:
- I would love to help you if I had the time.
- Right now, I’m having to focus on completing ___________ for _________________ (name of person to whom you report).
- I’ll be happy to show you how to do it, then you can complete it.
Secondly, know that things will be hectic, and avoid panicking, because we tend to make more mistakes when we panic. The last thing you want to have to do, is do something over because you did It wrong the first time. Take the time to ask for clarification, and make sure the expectations are clear. If some of your tasks require collaboration or working with colleagues, communicate with them early on to schedule sessions so that you are not working up until the deadline. When working with colleagues, it is important to stay focused on the task so that you don’t end up chatting and taking more time to complete the task, so it is a good idea to have an agenda or checklist to help the team stay on task. Remember, not everyone has the same workload, so they may be able to chat without getting too far behind. Always know your deadlines and boundaries and keep them in perspective. Take the extra time to double check your completed work and make sure you have it backed up on another computer or jump drive just in case there is a problem with technology. This will help you avoid having to complete the same task multiple times.
While it is of key importance that you do your professional best every day, know that you must make time for self-care. Self-care is different for different people, so it is critical to make self-care choices that are in the best interest of you and your family when you are not at work. One of the suggestions. I usually make is to separate work from home; however, during this time of unprecedented events, we may be working at home. We still must make the disconnect between work and home to manage our stress. One simple suggestion is to determine what time you will finish working every day and stop at that time. This includes talking about work as well. Leave the work area and stay out, if possible. If you are not able to leave your work area, try changing out of your work attire and changing the mood of the area by adjusting the lighting, and engaging in activities that distract you from work. One trap that many of us fall into after work is checking email. Try to avoid this because it’s so easy to check one email, then another, and before you know it, you’re back at work. Give yourself an actual break so that you can start fresh the next day and not feel like you’ve never stopped working.
Another suggestion is to find ways to de-stress at work. If you’re working from home, make sure you have comfortable seating. If possible, try working while standing. Soaking your feet while participating in video meetings is another way to help you de-stress while working. Let’s not forget the power of aromatherapy. If you have it, use it. The combination of eucalyptus and mint Is very common for helping to reduce stress. Working from home is quite different in that we sit more and are less physically active, so every hour or so, try stretching for 5 minutes and/or getting some fresh air by going outside or opening a window. The next suggestion is difficult for most of us to follow; but when implemented, can be quite effective. Take a break on your lunch break. Take this time to eat and/or do something that relaxes or energizes you (i.e. close your eyes and have a moment of silence, listen to some relaxing music, exercise, etc.). Engaging in that self-care will help you get through the rest of the afternoon.
Finding and maintaining a balance is critical. As suggested in the infographic from www.adaa.org, accept the factors that you are unable to control or manage; and do the best with everything else. Many employers offer employee health or mental health assistance through various programs or your personal insurance. Do not be afraid to take advantage of these options. They are offered because companies realize there is a need. Remember it’s better to realize you need help and seek it rather than to try to be a superhero and end up in an unhealthy physical, mental, or emotional state. You ARE awesome and you can finish this year feeling as fantastic as you are. Do your best, manage your stress, and you will pass the test!
Author: Truvine Walker, M.Ed./CCC-SLP, Clinical Team Lead (CT)