Managing Job Stress Is Not Just for the COVID Crisis, but Every Day

By Danielle Rogers
Community Marketing Manager | City of Newton, Iowa

My anxiety is slowly creeping higher, and my creative juices are low. Both mean my productivity feels subpar. Add in a global pandemic, racial equity and a looming election, and it feels like the world’s weight is on my shoulders. It’s not fun, it’s wearing on me and I’m worried about my mental health and personal well-being. 

I have tools I use to manage my anxiety. I’ve talked about them in several blog posts I’ve done for ELGL. But I’ve realized these tools can be used in the marketing and communications I do every day. 

1) Acknowledge the stress. For the longest time, I was full steam ahead on everything - professionally and personally. Now I take the time to acknowledge the stress, sit with the uncomfortable and figure out where my emotions originate. I’ve started to do this with a lot of my communication and marketing on social media. Instead of just plowing ahead, I sit with that email or social media comment to better understand why the sender asks that question or makes that comment. I can acknowledge what they are asking or commenting about and shape my communication around it.

2) Ask for help. As a 30-something woman, I usually feel like I can take on the world and do it all. That’s not healthy, and it’s not true. Getting over my ego and asking for help has been incredibly beneficial to my mental health. And when I asked for help, none of the negative reactions I thought were going to happen did. So asking for help at work has been happening a lot more. I worked in our Emergency Management Agency’s EOC for 10 weeks. I asked for guidance daily. I realized that in asking for assistance, it helped make our work successful. So why am I not asking for help from my coworkers? Since that realization I’ve asked our city planner to review an email about the 2020 Census and our development specialist to review a flyer about a new housing development. Both were enthusiastic about helping – with no strings attached.

3) Leave work at the office. Separating work life from my personal life is the hardest thing to do. This is something we all know should be doing. But let’s be honest - it’s not. I’m doing my best to leave my work at the office. But I’ve struggled with this since March. Still, I’m getting better about setting some hard boundaries. I spend time outside on the weekends with a good fiction book. I reach out to family and friends to talk about things not work-related. I leave my work cell phone off part of the weekend to balance my time. 

4) Not my monkeys, not my circus. Another trick, which I’ve learned from my therapist, is taking time to figure out if the situation I’m stressed or anxious about is even something I have any control over. I like to be in control, but sometimes I’m not. Yes, marketing this new housing development project is stressful, and engineering contractors may be behind. But I’m not the public works director. I’m not the ringmaster - I can’t control that. I’ve applied the same thought process to our City’s daily social media. I cannot control the number of trolls, the fights between individuals in comment sections or bugs on the platforms. I can only work with what I can control. So I share facts, press on and make sure the information is available.

5) Take deep breaths and calm down. I never use to meditate but that changed when I started seeing my therapist. It helps but it took me a few sessions to do it right. I’ve even come up with a mini-meditation I do in the office if things are too much. Sometimes, it’s enough to get me through. The most recent time where this helped? I was near the edge of a nervous breakdown, and I couldn’t figure out exactly why. So I took 15 minutes away from my desk, walked around our building and realized that I had set an unrealistic deadline for myself that I could change. It felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. But without stopping to take some deep breaths and getting away from my office, I wouldn’t have realized that I could change the deadline. 

There’s always room for improvement; we’re all works in progress - both personally and professionally. Taking care of yourself is often reflected in how we handle our tasks and responsibilities in stressful times.