I work for the Texas Association of REALTORS® managing more than a dozen local associations. Each has its own unique crop of leaders, personalities, and issues, so I know being able to manage stress is a vital part of well-being.
Every day, there are deadlines to meet, projects to finish, and questions to answer. Ideally, everything is perfectly organized and comes together with a rhythm that’s orchestrated just right. At the day’s end, everyone is happy, everything is fi nished, and I am a champion.
A real day for me goes more like this: Three boards have not reviewed their bylaws; one board’s president has just retired from real estate; the members of another board are not getting along and are sending cryptic emails back and forth with me copied; one board’s website is on the fritz again; and no one has RSVP’d for the last continuing education class of the year.
Meanwhile, members are constantly phoning with questions such as “Can you fi x my listing?” “Have you updated the minutes for last month’s meetings?” “Why does it take so long for me to get my password?” “What do I get for my dues?”
Mix that all together and you’ve got a recipe for a stress meltdown.
It’s di cult to fi nd joy in a job when the stress gets a hold of you. My job as a multiboard manager can be extremely stressful. But, as someone managing generalized anxiety disorder, I’ve learned a lot over the years from research, personal coaches, and expert seminars about controlling stress.
Here are some situations you may encounter and the techniques I use to keep stress from taking over.
Stress situation A new president contacts me looking for an email about an event that should have been sent to all members last week, but I never received it and had no prior notice about sending it. I discover during the conversation that the email address she had was wrong. No one attended the event because no one knew about it, and the president is furious.
Stress-limiting technique No.1: Breathe. The fi rst thing I do is take a deep breath. I say to myself “deep, calming breath” before I respond to an angry caller. I will continue to take those cleansing breaths while I listen to the caller. This gives them the opportunity to vent while I lower my stress. As you breathe, bring the air into your chest and expand your diaphragm to get air deep in your belly. Hold your breath for two seconds before you let it gently and quietly go.
Stress situation: A hot-tempered director on the board has just informed me that I’m “useless” because something he wants me to do confl icts with board bylaws. After I’ve taken a deep, calming breath, I remind myself that although it may seem that I’m under a personal attack, I’m not. It’s not about me. People want what they want, and sometimes they do not know how to control themselves when they don’t get it.
Stress-limiting technique No. 2: Don’t make a problem personal. If I choose not to accept others’ fi ts as personal, they are much less likely to stress me out.
Stress situation: It’s October and I’ve got core standards certifi cations to submit, but only a handful of boards have turned in enough information. I have to prepare information for a meeting and 60 other things that need to be done quickly. It can be overwhelming, which is one of the biggest causes for intense stress.
Stress-limiting technique No. 3: Take it one little bit at a time. I start my day by making a list of what I plan to accomplish and then add, shift, and check o things as the day progresses. The best part of making a list is reviewing it at the start of the next day and realizing how much I accomplished.
Stress situation: I’ve avoided a conversation with a member of my leadership that I anticipate will be unpleasant. The conversation must take place before the next board meeting, and time is running out. Instead I want to procrastinate, so the stress builds with every passing moment.
Stress-limiting technique No. 4: Just do it. This one may be obvious, but it’s never easy. Still, I force myself to start that thing I’m putting o so it becomes easier to continue getting things done. By minimizing procrastination, I make huge strides in overcoming stress.
Stress situation: I’m cruising along with my well-organized day, checking things o my very long list, but the phone keeps ringing with calls that are mostly for other sta members, or the MLS, or a committee chair. I’m tempted to take all the calls anyway because I’m a super multitasker and I don’t want to burden anyone else.
Stress-limiting technique No. 5: Delegate. Many people fi nd it a real challenge to share the work. I see it constantly with board leadership. They get stressed out because they don’t know how to divide the work and let a committee handle it. Sharing the work can go a long way toward building your community as well as helping keep your stress well-managed.
The last technique, No. 6: works for any situation and may be the most important step in keeping stress from taking over your life: Have fun and relax. You have to have something you do that’s a joy, an entertainment, or a release. Laugh when you can. Take a break and go for a quick walk. Visit with a co-worker for a bit, color in a meditation coloring book, or read a book for pleasure while you eat your lunch. Then, when you get back to work, you’ll fi nd that your stress level is lower, and the quality of your work is better. Stress is a part of our human experience. There is no way to eliminate it, but by using these six interventions in our lives, we can keep it from consuming us and robbing us of the joy that our day-to-day life has to offer.