Take a Deep Breath

by Pam Scott

busy PMP calendarThis week’s call came from Helen. She runs a department with 56 employees, within a very large company. As she said, “I’m starting to lose it.”

“When I looked at my calendar for the week, I realized how ridiculous it was. Who am I—Superman? Every day had one thing scheduled after another. Meetings, reports to write, reports to review. Two client lunches. Three performance reviews. It’s madness.”

Most of us can relate to Helen’s situation. Stress is a common factor in our lives. The key is how we react to it.

I have one client, Barry, who is a schedule fanatic. Every minute of his day is scheduled. When someone runs late or something unexpected comes up, Barry freaks. His intensity is visible to those around him. Truth be told, he’s not much fun to be around when he’s like that.

I suggested that Barry block out two 30-minute periods—one in the morning, one in the afternoon—and leave those times open. Those two periods give him time to accommodate slips in his schedule—a meeting runs over, a client is late, whatever. Those times provide a pressure release for Barry so he can reduce his stress.

I usually keep my Outlook calendar on the monthly view. When I looked at this week’s schedule, I almost lost it. What idiot had crammed so much into the week? It appeared each day was booked with back to back meetings, presentations, calls, etc.

I need to get myself grounded in reality. I changed the calendar to the weekly view and what a better view it was. I saw that I actually had some gaps between meetings. I found one meeting I could reschedule for next month. I saw that a couple appointments are with favorite clients, so those are going to be fun. A couple of meetings are to get new clients, which I enjoy.

The bottom line here is that when we lose it, the best thing we can do for ourselves is to get grounded in reality.

Here are Some Tips for Reducing Stress

Take a walk. Physical activity is a great stress reducer for most people.

This sounds strange but it works. Schedule worry time. Write your concerns on a piece of paper and put it in an envelope. Write a “worry time” such as 2:15-2:30 on the envelope. Put the envelope aside and don’t worry about things until 2:15. After your 15 minutes of worrying, put the paper back in the envelope and put a new worry time on it.

Another tactic is to write your worries on little pieces of paper. Wad the paper into balls and ceremoniously throw them away.

If you like organization and are stressed by a lack of it, give yourself 15 minutes to tackle one small area that needs to be cleaned up.

Practice deep breathing, sometimes called belly breathing. Use your diaphragm to suck in oxygen, which helps you relax.

Stretch. Your muscles hold the stress you are feeling. Stretching them helps release chemicals produced by the stress.

Pet a puppy. Smile. Sing a tune. Listen to music. Have fun.

Life is too short to let stress get to you, even in tough times.

If you found these tips from Pam Scott of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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