communicating stress to your team

Feeling stressed at work is one thing, talking about it is another. Having a clouded mind and intense emotions can make it difficult for us to communicate things appropriately. So how can you tell your boss & colleagues that you are stressed and need help? These few tips may help.

Labeling your emotions

Before addressing your emotions to other people, it’s important to first understand them. Esther Perel talks about how labeling specifically what you feel and what triggers it can help you to get more specific solutions.

“We have a tendency to call it “stress,” but it’s multi-dimensional. Breaking it down into parts — and giving those parts names — is crucial to our health, safety, and sanity.”

Are you sad? Are you feeling helpless? Try to put it in more words and trace back what triggers it. One of the recommendations from her article is “pay attention to what you’re paying attention to” which I find very helpful. Sometimes we don’t even know where to start. Being aware of what consumes our focus can be the first step before actually doing something about it.

Give in. Don’t be reluctant. Acknowledge your emotions. How can you explain it to someone else and gain support if you are still denying your own feelings?

Assume that people aren’t aware

Turns out, many professionals struggle in communicating their need for help. Sometimes I struggle in showing vulnerability and incapability because I don’t want to be seen as weak or failing in my work. The funny thing is, I hate it when people do that and I’d always try to encourage people to speak up and create a safe environment for them to do so. What I’m saying is, chances are, it’s all in your head.

“Strong leaders understand that well-being is a priority and has an impact on business outcomes. They will want to work with you to help address the challenges you are facing.” — (Caroline Castrillon).

Now remember, people don’t read your mind. You are the one who experiences what you feel and understands best about yourself and what you need so if it doesn’t come from you, you shouldn’t wait for it to come from someone else. Try to articulate your emotions using universal languages and make room for others to ask questions and try to understand you.

Prepare the conversation

You may not want to storm into the room and say whatever comes first in your head. Take a step back to calm yourself down and understand what’s going on. Try to create a structure of the conversation and set your expectations. What does support look like to you? How can these people help? Try to come up with some solutions that might help but also be open to other alternatives.

It is okay to show people that you need help, but also show them that you are willing to do something about it. It might also be helpful to mention how getting the help you need can make an impact on your job or the team.

Now, sometimes not everyone would give you a response that you like. “Sadly, not every boss will navigate this conversation as graciously as you might want — it’s possible they’re just as overwhelmed as you are — but most bosses do want to be helpful.” (Ron Carucci). Nevertheless, you still have a chance to receive help from others instead of letting yourself drown in your struggle.

Take ownership and be consistent in self-care

At the end of the day, it all comes from you first. You are responsible to draw your boundaries and communicate your needs to others. Self-care is a lifelong journey and you won’t always be able to figure it out on your own.

You can try to take regular breaks (even when you think you don’t need one), try new hobbies that’d make you happy, or speak to someone. I think many people would agree that it feels good to help others, so give others a chance to help you too.

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Lia Thamrin

Lia Thamrin

what I know, what I want to know, and what I will never know

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