Healthy Boundaries with Stress

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Last week at work I was promoted!

And by “promoted” I mean: someone quit and now all of her tasks are my responsibility :).

First and foremost, this is very good for me professionally. While there was a tad bit of sarcasm in the above line, I am grateful for this opportunity and excited to see where the path may lead. But, until I get settled and adjusted, I am faced with the hard reality of being super stressed and overwhelmed by this new job and all of its nuances.

I am a pretty-list kind of girl: I like everything to be organized, prioritized, and completed. In this new job however, by the time I’ve completed one task five more have popped up! This, on top of normal new-job stress, has left me feeling very overwhelmed.

My work day kind of feels like I’m back in college, with the hardest, most demanding professor who assigns an ungodly amount of homework and his tests are super hard and no amount of studying will be enough to do well in the class. Have I painted a clear picture here?

The logical part of me is like, “Why do you care so much?! Eventually it will be fine! Or it won’t! We’ll deal with it either way!” I’m trying to really believe that and thrive during this season of growing pains. Since I cannot get it all done perfectly anyway, what’s the use in allowing it to overwhelm me? But because it’s not second-nature yet, and because my innate reaction is to allow stress to take over, I need a strong boundary with stress; I need to build a wall around the mountain to keep the work from washing me away in a landslide.

I once was told that we rise to our level of incompetence, meaning that our personal struggles will keep coming up for us until we resolve the issue. My need to be in control, to know what’s going on with everything and everyone, and to be two steps ahead has landed me in the exact opposite position: I am not in control, I know only half (at best) of what’s going on, and I am more like ten steps behind. I am learning to be okay with the fact that my day starts and ends in the middle of a task, that I don’t have time to even make a to-do list, let alone a pretty one, and that the only way to make it end is to literally get up and walk away from my desk.

I’m also realizing that despite all of the above, I love the challenge. The reason it’s hard is because it is important. Everything that was once easy was that way for a reason: less pay, less responsibility, less positive change to be implemented.

So, to thrive during the adjustment period and beyond, I am following some sage advice. My favorite teacher told me many times, “the only way to complete many tasks is to do one thing at a time.” It may seem like a good idea to start everything at once, but by the day’s end I realize that I still haven’t finished the task from two days ago. I will also abide by the workday hours: show up on time, leave on time, and get out of the office at lunch for a nice walk. By establishing these boundaries my days can mold into the “new normal,” and I can keep myself buoyant through it all.

2 thoughts on “Healthy Boundaries with Stress

  1. I so agree with mindfulness! Self regulation & awareness. On the daily when I’m stressed or anxious I practice progressive muscle relaxation. I also include mindfulness breathing which gives me my own personal self care & break time. Yes, a day at a time! Congrats on your promotion!

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