My Top 5 Stress Triggers

8 Mar

The first step to managing stress is recognizing triggers.  Behold, these are the top 5 things that trigger a stress reaction for me:

1.  Bad surprises.  Don’t get me wrong  I love surprises, but I only love good surprises.  The #1 worst feeling for me is when something bad happens unexpectedly.  I prepare for everything so part of the difficulty for me is just wrapping my head around the fact that I didn’t prepare for the scenario.  I get so flustered by the surprise that it hinders my problem solving skills.

2.  Feeling out of control.  While this happened much more frequently at the previous job, it still occurs from time to time at my present job.  There are a million analogies to explain this feeling (the Snowball Effect or Run Away Train).  The biggest challenge for me with this trigger is that the more overwhelmed I get, the most difficult it is for me to shake the stress.

3.  Fear of error.  Not only am I a perfectionist, I am also hypersensitive to the way people view my work.  If my work does not reflect my standards, I am mortified when someone notices an error.  The worst case scenario for me is if my error affects another person in a negative way (Forgetting to book a hotel room for an interviewer, miscalculating the number of people attending an event, etc).

4.  The people who surround me.  If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “Don’t let other people affect you’re mood” I’d be rich.  Unfortunately for me, I have a lot of difficultly separating myself from others’ emotions.  When someone around me is stressed out, I stress out.

5.  Feeling Clueless.  This was my biggest source of stress in my previous job.  This trigger typically manifests itself in situations that are pressing but I don’t know enough about it to solve the problem.

Now that I am more aware of the patterns that trigger stress for me, I can be on the lookout for these scenarios as they occur and before they can trigger stress for me.  Although identifying them triggers isn’t going to solve the problem, it will at least prepare me for a stressful situation.

The next step for me is to reflect on the effects of stress on my life at work and outside of work.  I also want to identify ways that I currently release stress and come up with a few new ways to release stress in the future.


March Topic: Managing Stress

29 Feb

“Pressure is a privilege.”

I have a Love-Hate relationship with this quote.  On one hand, I completely agree that I am lucky to have pressure in my life that forces me to strive for success.  On the other hand, I don’t always feel privileged when I am feeling pressure.

Evan and I spent a night talking about the difference between pressure and stress and the many ways to react to them.  His philosophy is that we are in complete control of our emotional reaction to stress.  I believe that but I’m just not 100% there yet.

This is typically what happens to me under a stressful situation:  Something completely unpredictable happens at work that needs to be resolved immediately.  I go into “problem solving mode” until I resolve the situation.  Typically I become aware of my “stress attack” only after I feel comfortable that the level of stress is subsiding.

Although I work well under pressure, I feel extremely uncomfortable in a high-stress environment.  I can’t figure out how to feel any control over my reaction because I can never identify a “stress attack” until after it’s over.

This is definitely an area of opportunity for me so I’ve come up with a few ways develop my stress management skills.  I have a feeling that one month won’t be enough for me so I may need to bring this topic back in September when work gets super crazy again.

These are the questions I’m going to explore throughout the next week or so.

  • What are my sources of stress?
  • What is the difference between stress and pressure?
  • What triggers stress for me?
  • How do I outwardly show that I am feeling stress?
  • How does stress affect my life outside of work?
  • How does stress affect my performance?

I’m also going to keep a “stress journal” as described on Stress Management: How to Reduce, Prevent, and Cope with Stress.  I found that website pretty easily by Google Searching “Stress Management.”  Sometimes I find these types of websites to be a little cheesy (example: light scented candles – Let’s be honest, scented candles will not be solving my problem) but I think it’s actually worth reading to pull a few good tips out of it.

Before I can tackle any of this, the first step in this process is to learn as much as I can about myself.

Stress Management: because a pool and margarita aren't always available at the office.

It’s time for some change… already!

27 Feb

After two full months of blogging I’ve already learned a lot about myself.  I noticed that I was much more inspired to write about my areas of opportunity than areas that I believe are strengths.  I’ve also noticed that I felt like I learned more about myself when I spent time developing an area that could use some work.

Since it’s more beneficial to me and probably more entertaining for you, I’m going to make a change to my blog concept.  Instead of switching off from areas of weakness and areas of strength each week, I’m going to focus on skills that I want to develop.  Throughout this month I’m going to come up with the topics for the rest of my year.

Most appropriately, on Wednesday I’m going to be blogging about Managing Stress (an area that I should probably spend two months on developing).  I think this should be interesting…

Defining Moment: How THON changed my life

22 Feb

Everyone has a defining moment in their life.  My definition of a “defining moment” is a life changing event that teaches you a lesson about your character.  It’s different for everyone: a birth, a death, a revelation, a change.  Sometimes its importance may be difficult to recognize at the time; it may even take years to identify its impact on your life.  No matter how long it takes, once you recognize a defining moment in your life, you are forever changed.

My defining moment was an experience that lasted exactly 46 hours.  For those of you familiar with THON, I was a dancer in THON 2010.  For those who are not, THON is another name for the Penn State Dance Marathon.  It is a 46 hour no-sitting/no-sleeping dance marathon to support families affected by pediatric cancer through the Four Diamonds fund.  Only approximately 700 people each year get the privilege of spending those 46 hours on their feet but 15,000+ students volunteer their time to make the weekend possible.  Best of all, this past weekend, THON raised over $10.68M to fight pediatric cancer.

THON is an amazing philanthropy that helps hundreds of families affected by pediatric cancer.  I recommend that everyone visits right now to learn more about the wonderful ways the charity serves others.  I would also encourage everyone to donate online as well.  I can guarantee that your donation will work miracles for families who have been living in a nightmare.

Typically when you think about a charity, you think about how it benefits the people it serves.  One thought I would like to point out is that people forget to consider the impact the charity has on the volunteers as well.  Participating in THON has changed my life in ways I cannot even explain.  The biggest take-away for me has been the realization that I am a strong person who will fight through a physical, mental, and emotional challenge.

Standing for 46-hours without sleep or coffee to support children with cancer is something that has defined who I am as a person.  The memory of those 46 hours will always be a part of me.  When I am faced with a challenge, I always think back to THON.  Even when the pain was difficult to bare at the time, I made the choice to continue to dance without complaint.  It was by no means easy but it was worth it.

My THON 2010 Journey

Click the link above to watch the video I made to tell the story of THON 2010 (it’s definitely not a work of art by any means but I still love it!).

My THON family

“Building my brand” is about defining who I am and making sure the world sees me as the best possible version of myself.  Because of my experience at THON, I am confident that I can use the following two words to define my brand:

Dedicated & Strong

Recommended Read: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office 101

11 Feb


I bought this book over a year ago but I hadn’t been able to relate to in when I worked in retail.  A conversation with my coworker Maureen sparked my interest in this book again.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I totally recommend it to all of the females who are reading this!

This book is a cheap version of career counseling.  There is a self-assessment in the first chapter that helps you point out your strengths and opportunities in regards to how you present yourself in a work setting.  The assessment breaks down your results into the following categories:  Play, Act, Think, Market, Look, Sound, and Respond.  I scored high on “Think” and “Look” and scored low on “Market” and “Sound.”  In general, everything was pretty low so I will be able to learn a lot from this book!

After you have determined which areas you need to work on, you go to the chapter that gives examples of related mistakes and solutions to fixing those mistakes.  For example, one of the mistakes that I’ve identified in my behavior is “Apologizing (excessively)” which is listed under the chapter titled “How You Sound.”  The author even gives you an action plan to help you correct this mistake.

I plan on using this book throughout the year to correct some of the behaviors that are holding me back from doing my best at work.

I’ve made this super easy for you, just click the link and get your copy of Lois P. Frankel’s book!  Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office.


The Awkward Moment When: You realize that working hard just isn’t enough.

9 Feb

It can be really discouraging when you know that you are doing a lot of great work but you realize that no one is noticing it.  There are two ways to handle this situation:

1.  Accept the fact that others are not going to go out of their way to notice your work and be at peace with that fact

2.  Realize that others are not going to notice your work unless you go out of your way to show them what you’ve done

I think the first option has always been my go-to reaction.  I always thought that good work would get noticed because it always did in school. Regardless of outward recognition, at the end of a semester I’d see a good grade and feel good about the fact that my work was noticed.

How did my teachers know that I was a good student?  They went out of their way to figure out how well I was doing.  They assigned tests, projects, and homework that was meant to be completed, collected, and graded.  Their job was to record my progress and they worked their butts off doing it all year.  The only effort I had to put into the process was hard work.  The rest was up to the teacher.

Now let’s fast forward to my place in the working world.  I am still working hard and completing projects to the best of my ability.  Up until this point in my life (let’s just ignore last year) someone has always tracked my progress.  Up until about 15 minutes ago, it had been natural to assume that someone else would continue to track my progress at work.  This next point is a great argument for why the transition from being a “kid” to an “adult” is not an easy one:  It is now MY job to track MY progress.  If I can’t show others what I’ve done well, I’ll just get lost in the dust.

To complicate this situation ever more, I should mention one important fact about myself:  I hate attention in pretty much every form.  I don’t want people to notice me any more than they notice anyone around me.  Although I appreciate the idea of recognition, I would absolutely hate it if someone made me stand up in front of a room of my peers to congratulate me for doing something well.  To me, the best recognition would be if someone pulled me aside and mentioned that they noticed __(Insert positive feedback here)__.

After rereading my post up until this point, my problem seems very obvious now: my fear of attention has been holding me back from being noticed for a long time.  My assumption that people will notice my hard work just because I’m working hard is wrong.  I know plenty of people who work hard and have never been recognized or noticed.  In an ideal world, those who work hard will be rewarded.  Just in case anyone was wondering…. we do not live in an ideal world.  We live in a world where “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  As much as I don’t want to admit it, I know that I need to learn how to be assertive and put myself out there to be judged.

This is that awkward moment when:  I finally understand my own blog title.

I could spend my entire life “Building My Brand” but never actually selling it.

From what I hear, admitting that I have a problem is the first step.  So then what’s the next?

For me, the answer is easy: Planning.

Planning Addiction

8 Feb

I’ll admit it, I need structure.  (Maybe that is an understatement.)  Embarrassingly enough, I will also admit that I plan time to be spontaneous.  I feel the most comfortable when I know what I’m supposed to be doing next.

I make plans by the day, week, weekend, month and season.  I use multiple tools to record my plans: a note-book, weekly planner, Outlook calendar, and a white board calendar.  I need to see my plans written down before I can act on them.  There is no way that I could plan using my only my memory.  I’d forget half of the things I need to do.  I know the all of the different planning tools are overkill, but I just can’t help it: I’m addicted to planning.

There are two very important components of planning: prioritizing and executing.  I use these two components as I am planning my workload for the day.  My Daily To-Do list is by far my most valuable planning tool.  If you want to try it, follow these 4 easy steps:

1.  Each morning, take 15-20 minutes to write down a list of everything that needs to be completed throughout the day.  The important part is to list everything that comes to mind, regardless of its importance.  The idea is to ensure that nothing is forgotten once you start working on projects.

2.  Prioritize this list based on items that are time sensitive or have a large impact on your customers

3.  Determine when you will be the most productive throughout the day.  I happen to be a morning person so I take care of all of my detail oriented work first thing in the morning.  I save the less thought-provoking tasks for the afternoon “When that 2:30 feeling strikes” (I wish I could make every day a 5 hour energy day).

4.  Pick off tasks one-by-one.  Regardless of personal preference, time sensitive work needs to be completed first.  If everything is time sensitive, prioritize based on impact to your customer.  Use your judgement to determine what needs to be done first.  The goal is to execute everything on your list in priority order.

While these steps seem extremely basic, I can guarantee that there are a lot of people who spend their days at working being more “reactive” than “proactive.”  I prefer to plan ahead and take care of work before someone asks me to do it.

Since I see planning as an “area of strength,” my goal for the month is to learn how to improve this skill.  I’d also like to learn how to use this strength in my personal life.  I’d like to improve my Career Planning and Financial Planning.  I’d also like to focus on the importance of execution.

If you also consider Planning as an area of strength, what is your secret?  I’d love to hear it!!