We kicked off our 2023 Balancing Work and Cancer webinar series last week with a session on Managing Long Term Stress. Our frequent collaborator Julie Larson, LCSW walked us through a detailed presentation including the causes of stress and techniques to alleviate and avoid stress from getting in the way of critical responsibilities in both personal and professional lives.
At the start of the presentation, Julie asked the following questions:
1. What triggers my stress?
2. How do I recognize it?
3. What do I do with it?
4. How can I build my resilience?
Everyone is going to have their own answers to each question as stress manifests in different ways in all of us, but these four questions are a way to assess yourself and help you move forward. The more you can pinpoint the triggers and how stress manifests inside you, the better equipped you can be to decide how to manage it, and how to build resilience against it in the future.
To help conquer your personal stress, Julie gave us five strategies:
1. Name It to Tame It
Your fear and worry may not completely go away but recognizing a feeling and consciously naming it can help give you some distance and insight to properly respond to a situation. It can calm you and help you act smarter in a stressful environment.
2. The Here & Now
This is meant to help ground you in the present, rather than dwell on the past or worry about the future. You can sort your thoughts and worries into three categories: Past, Present and Future. Take a deep breath and try to only focus on the present moment. Feel free to delegate your Future Thoughts to your Future Self.
3. Educate Yourself
After receiving a diagnosis, there are most likely a million questions swirling around in your brain. These unanswered questions can drive anxiety, so try to find answers for them. Talk to your doctors about common side effects of your treatment, so you can mentally and physically prepare yourself. Record your side effects in a diary or notebook so you can look back on your last treatment as you prepare your work expectations prior to your next treatment. Find a support group where you can trade stories with other survivors. Educate yourself on your rights and options as you navigate work (Check out our Where to Start section of our website for much more information)
4. Smooth Communication
Solid communication skills can help alleviate stress and avoid unneeded complications or added stresses. Working in an office can bring a consistent flow of questions about how you’re feeling which, while good intentioned on a coworker’s part, can be frustrating and just remind you of the stress outside of work you’ve been experiencing. Cancer and Careers discusses a technique called “the Swivel” to allow you to pivot unwanted conversations without creating an uncomfortable situation. For example, “I’m feeling ok, but while I have you, what did you think of that presentation yesterday?” (For more information on Communicating Effectively, you can check out recordings from our two-part series in 2022 here and here)
5. Intentional Boundaries
Setting clear boundaries, especially at work, can help leave work (and it’s stresses) at work. Talk to your manager about making sure your responsibilities are clear, and don’t let others dump their responsibilities on your plate (but figure out how to set that boundary appropriately at work). Don’t be afraid to disappear for a bit. And finally, when you end your day, make sure it’s intentional. Turn off email notifications from your phone. Don’t check in at 9pm at night if you don’t need to. Creating that divide between your work and personal life can do wonders in keeping stress at a manageable level.
To hear Julie’s full presentation including many more tips and tricks on identifying and managing stress, you can watch the archived recording of the webinar here. You can also do more reading about stress on our website here.