How to: De–stress at Work

The last few weeks at work have been in a word, stressful. A lot of changes have come down the pipeline and my team is trying to handle it all in stride. Last week in particular was filled to the brim with challenges, and somehow in a matter of hours I became a little ball of stress. It wasn’t until I got home that I began to slowly feel the stress melt away.

boldI’ll admit, I have never been great at handling stress. I think it was easier in college when I could walk across the quad or down the hall to a friend’s room. Taking a few minutes to get away from the papers, exams, or extracurricular work was often all I needed to gain a little perspective. At work it isn’t quite as easy to find a “sit on the quad and watch the sunset” moment. That being said, I think I’ve found a few ways to help manage my stress.

  1. Walk Away – Going off my trick from college, taking a walk outside or simply to the coffee machine can do wonders. It clears your head a bit and also allows you to avoid the dozens of emails pouring in for a few minutes.
  2. Just breathe – So simple, but something I am not always mindful of when I feel the stress start to overwhelm me. Stopping for a few minutes to focus simply on your breathing can make a world of difference. There are a variety of techniques you can try to find the best fit for you.
  3. Wake up earlier – The most stressful days I have at work are when I am stressed before I even reached my desk. Running late, weaving in and out of slow walking New Yorkers, and reaching my desk minutes before my first meeting doesn’t make for a calm day. Waking up a few minutes earlier gives me time to grab a cup of coffee and go through my emails before the madness of the day sets in.
  4. Snacks – I am one of those people who sometimes forgets to eat when I am stressed. I bounce from one meeting to the other, and suddenly it’s 4pm and I haven’t had lunch. That makes for not only a stressed out Allison, but also a really cranky one too. Keeping healthy snack options nearby makes this step easy and keeps hangry at bay. I also recommend eating snacks away from your desk, find somewhere quiet for a few minutes of peace.
  5. Take your lunch break – Going off the last tip, actually take your lunch break! I know it isn’t always easy to get away for an hour, especially when you are in back to back meetings all day. However, it is so important to go out and grab lunch or simply step away from your desk for even 30 minutes. It is a necessary mental break that will recharge you enough to power through the rest of the afternoon.
  6. Music – Create a playlist of your favorite songs to always have on hand! Sometimes when people keep stopping by my desk and asking me questions, (and as a result breaking my train of thought!) I plug in my headphones to block out the distractions. I always opt for Country music because my Pandora playlist has become the perfect balance of calm and upbeat music. My all time favorite songs these days are Thomas Rhett’s Crash & Burn or Make Me Wanna, I am seriously addicted.
  7. Stretch – Get up and move around every half hour! I have been working on my posture at work and it has made a world of difference. Simply standing up and stretching your shoulders and back can help elevate those stressed muscles.
  8. Add some green I’ve already mastered this tip…have plants at your desk! Studies have shown that keeping plants at your desk can help reduce stress. I keep an ivy plant and a small bamboo plant on either side of my computer. I love these touches of nature, because it makes my desk feel like a happier place to work.
  9. Say No – This is more of a life lesson, but sometimes you just have to say “no”. I am the kind of person who will always take on different projects and tasks, and don’t always realize that I can’t handle it all until I am overwhelmed. I need to remember that sometimes it is okay to say “no” and push back. Stop adding to your stress by taking on things you cannot handle. It is better to reach out to your team for help or to better delegate the work. This will help to elevate mounting amounts of stress.

I hope these tips help you deal with the stress in your own life! Any helpful tips I should add into my own routine?

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Thoughtful Thursday: Passion & Careers

A few weeks ago, my team went out to lunch with an executive at our company. It was very informal and allowed us to openly discuss our department and the different projects we work on. First thing she asked us? Tell her one thing about ourselves that she doesn’t already know. I told her about my interesting experience interning in the fashion department of a magazine. It was a nice change of pace talking about things outside of our industry. It also created a bond with this executive in a very quick and unexpected way. Like, who knew that this woman was also obsessed with the show Awkward on MTV (aka the show that continually cracked me up throughout high school and college!). It was so refreshing to talk about things other than work, and it was the perfect mental break midway through the work day.

Not going to lie, having lunch together at Barneys was pretty cool!

Not going to lie, having lunch together at Barneys was pretty cool!

I think the most memorable aspect of this lunch was the amount of passion this woman has. She is truly bursting at the seams with drive, She regularly attends countless conferences and lectures outside of work. She takes digital design classes for fun. Annually she speaks in front of hundreds of college students. She brings the most unique ideas to the table and is constantly trying to push the envelope. It is an infectious quality she has, one that makes me want to work even harder towards my goals.

I think we were all pretty starstruck by her energy and enthusiasm, and couldn’t help but ask how she stays so motivated. She said that it lies in the escape of the everyday. We need to get outside the office and outside our industry, to see what else is out there. We spend so much time focused specifically on our company, that we are missing out on all the incredible projects other companies and industries are working on. Volunteer, read a book, attend a conference on a topic completely unrelated to your department but something you’ve always been fascinated by.

She explained that some of her best ideas have come from experiences you never would have guessed could be beneficial. Getting outside of the things we are hyper focused on during our 9-5 is the best way to embrace creativity and find a little more work life balance. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. So by not trying new things and reading different articles, you are limiting yourself to an endless stream of sameness.

The thing I admired most about this woman?

She brings ideas to every meeting and 9 times out of 10 she is shot down, but she never let’s that discourage her. She is hands down one of the most driven people I have had the pleasure to meet since joining the working world.

As we were talking, she told us the most memorable piece of advice she has ever received. Years ago her boss at an advertising agency told her, “I may not be famous, but every morning when I look in the mirror I can be proud of the person I see.” That struck such a cord with me. I feel like in this generation, if you aren’t a millionaire or entrepreneurial success by 25 you are considered a failure. Well maybe not a failure, but there is this constant pressure to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Lena Dunham etc. And oftentimes that can be a very discouraging measure of success, making us “millennials” feel like failures in our mid twenties for having not accomplished as much. This piece of advice reminded me that at the end of the day, I want to always be able to look in the mirror and smile at what I have accomplished and what I am working towards. I may not be famous, but I can be proud of who I am and the work I’ve done.

All in all it was a wonderful lunch. It was nice to escape the office for an hour, as I am guilty of eating my lunch at my desk while still responding to emails. This was the perfect reminder of the  importance of actually taking a lunch break. When I got back to my cubicle I felt completely refreshed and focused. It was clearly not just the lunch break, but the people sitting around the table that impacted me. There is just something about sitting with a passionate person. Their energy and drive is overwhelming and provides encouragement in a way that is hard to describe.

First Job Desk Essentials

It has been nearly one year since I graduated from Bucknell University. Crazy. I seriously cannot believe how fast time has flown by, or how much has changed in the last year. As I sit in a little cafe a few blocks from my apartment writing this post, I cannot believe where I am. I landed an incredible first job out of college, one that I am constantly learning new things at every single day. I realized that my favorite posts are the ones where I give you a peak inside my essentials, and I thought my desk essentials (besides the typical office supplies) at work could come in handy for those of you post grads about to start your first job!

First Job Desk Essentials

Notebook – Hands down the most important thing to have at your desk, a notebook! Every single time my manager calls me into her office I bring my notebook and a pen. It is impossible to remember everything so make it easier on yourself and pick up a cute notebook at a nearby Staples or Duane Reade. Regardless of your position, a notebook will always come in handy.

Sweater – Okay even though it is Spring, my office is absolutely freezing. Once the seasons started to change, they stopped blasting the heat and kicked up the AC. Every day I find myself reaching for the sweater I accidentally left at my chair one day after work. Now it is my trusty work sweater that goes with basically every outfit because it is black, and we all know that black is the unofficial go-to style for New Yorkers.

Health & Beauty – Similar to my purse, I have pretty much anything you could need in a little makeup bag at my desk. From safety pins, to nail files, bobby pins, Tylenol, tissues, and band-aids, I have it all. Band-aids are hands down the most used in that kit. Even though I absolutely LOVE my heels…sometimes they leave my feet with a few more cuts than I would like. Trust me, band aids will come in handy when you get  blisters or paper cuts. Having a little first aid kit will be used far more often then you think.

Lint roller – For those of you with pets at home, buy a pack of lint rollers to keep at your desk. Especially in winter when I wore black practically daily, I always needed to lint roll my pants when I got to my desk in the morning. It keeps me looking professional and dog hair free.

Chapstick – This is not only a desk essential, but a daily essential for me. I always have chapstick on me. My personal favorite is Blistex, I have countless tubes strewn across my apartment and in multiple drawers at work.

Mirror – Helpful to check your makeup throughout the day or ensure that nothing is stuck in your teeth after lunch.

Snacks – I mentioned this in a previous post, but seriously snacks at your desk is a must. You never know what day will become so overwhelmingly busy that you lose track of time, so it is nice to have a couple snacks nearby just in case.

Fun desktop background – I constantly change my computer desktop background depending on my mood. Right now it is a tropical beach photo from while I was in Australia. I love that when I close out of different windows I see one of my favorite beaches in the world. It is a simple but effective way to make your space feel like yours, and provide a little inspiration too!

Desk Calendar – Every year my office gets a new desk calendar with a funky design. This year, every month has a different type of dog in fashion (strange but fun!). Since I am constantly scheduling different meetings weeks in advance it is helpful to have a desk calendar that I can glance at when I am on the phone and don’t have time to open Outlook.

Plants – I have two plants at my desk, and I kid you not I am complimented daily on my green thumb. I have a bamboo plant (seen in photo above) and a small ivy plant. Both plants are low maintenance and somehow thrive in the office environment. I love having touches of green at my desk and studies show there are many benefits to having plants at work.

Photos/Posters – Your desk/cubicle is your space, make it feel like you! I have a framed photo of my family as well as multiple pictures of friends on an inner wall of my cubicle. I also have a couple postcards and quotes in my cubicle to provide a little inspiration or bring back fun memories. However, remember that this is NOT your high school locker so pick appropriate photos and keep your space looking professional.

Plastic Utensils/Napkins – Random, but useful. Whenever I bring lunch or quickly grab something from a nearby cafe I often forget to grab utensils and napkins. Now I have a handful of each that I took from our office kitchen so that I never need to make multiple trips.

Phone Charger – It’s a long day and my phone dies pretty regularly these days. Keep an extra phone charger at your desk for those days when you are at 5% and its only 11am.

Candy – Okay so this is not exactly an essential, but something that has been an interesting addition to my desk. Last week we had tons of leftover candy from a brainstorm meeting, which ended up in a bowl by my cubicle. My colleagues loved walking by and grabbing a treat and it was nice to take a break and say hi and catch up with them whenever they stopped by. That being said….I may or may not have eaten Reeses Peanut Butter cups for lunch three days in a row…oops! Candy is a great way to get to know the people around you since they will undoubtedly come over and grab something! But be wary because you may end up eating a lot of the treats if they are there too long!

These are my essentials as of late, but I have found myself adding new things to my desk regularly. What are the essentials you keep at your desk?

* I work for The Estée Lauder Companies however all thoughts and opinions are my own *