Safeguarding sanity

Just now, I overheard my boss saying to a visitor: “…and Adrienne. She keeps us all sane.”

This is a responsibility I do not take lightly. And I must say, November 2016 has been challenging in this regard.

Regardless of your political affiliations, the election stress and the turmoil that followed have taken an emotional toll on all of us.

And yet, the world did not stop to accommodate our feelings. For most of us, it’s been business-as-usual at work, and we’ve had to continue productivity in the face of adversity.

As assistants, it is our job to help keep our team members productive, regardless of circumstance. So I’m here to help you rise to that challenge by arming you with some useful tools for combating stress and emotional upset.

handy business team

Remember the 4 f’s:

  1. Forgive

  2. Fill your own cup first

  3. Focus on the work

  4. Find the fun


You may have noticed that a lot of folks – yourself included – are making silly mistakes they wouldn’t normally make. Details overlooked. Impulsive action taken. Balls dropped.

This actually makes perfect sense. Stress is a response to perceived danger, and in the face of danger, you want to be able to move quickly.

So be kind and forgiving when you see these sorts of mistakes being made. And if you catch yourself making them, give yourself a break. Go for a walk, take some deep breaths, do whatever you need to do to shake it off and refocus.

You may also notice that you, and a lot of others, are tired. Dealing with stress takes a lot out of you, more than you probably realize. Additionally, it can interrupt sleep patterns, causing even more fatigue.


So it makes sense that you would need a bit more sleep than usual. Whenever possible, give your body the rest it is asking for, and encourage those on your team to do the same.

OK, so it may not be practical to re-institute nap time at work (though I’m totally in favor if you want to push for it), but you can certainly let people (including you!) know that, for a certain time, coming in an hour late or taking off an hour early is A-OK.

Fill your own cup first

You know how, on an airplane, when they give the little safety spiel, they always say to put on your oxygen mask first, before assisting others? The same applies in stressful work situations. If you are not taking good care of yourself, you will not be of much use to anyone else. In fact, you are likely to become a burden and cause more stress to those around you.


What fills up your cup? Only you know the answer to that question. And sometimes even you don’t know the answer until you stop to ask yourself:

“What do I really need right now?”

Whatever the answer is, make time for that. You’re worth it and so are all the people counting on your emotional labor.

Focus on the work

Just so we’re clear, forgiveness does not mean dwelling, and allowing others to dwell, on unproductive anxieties to the exclusion of getting actual work done. On the contrary, work can be a lifesaver in terms of offering a safe focal point for your mental energy in times of upheaval.

Each time you find someone (yourself included) starting to obsess over things beyond their control, help them re-shift that focus onto something they absolutely can and definitely should control: their work. Not only does work provide a distracting mental challenge, it also offers an immediate feeling of productivity and accomplishment.


Times of turmoil, believe it or not, are the ideal time to create incentives to excel, particularly as a team. Having specific, achievable goals that come with predictable rewards can help keep your team’s eyes on the prize and combat depression and any accompanying apathy.

Try issuing a difficult-but-reasonable challenge to the team, and dangle an appealing reward if they reach it. Even if they don’t succeed, it’ll give them something to rally around as a group, and to strive for as individuals.

Find the fun

One of the best things you can do to help your team through a hard time is simply to provide a pleasant place to spend the day. I’m sure you’ve already put a good deal of effort into creating a positive work environment, so I’ll focus instead on economical activities designed to make work a little more like play.

  1. Parties! Find excuses to celebrate. Bring donuts to your morning stand-up just because it’s Friday. Find a milestone to hit and pop some champagne. Be creative — there’s always a reason to grab some goodies and get happy.

  2. Desk decorating competition. The holidays are coming up: perfect time to bring in some craft supplies and let your team go a little overboard on the decorating. Get some small gifts as prizes for the best (or worst!) decorated desks.

  3. Games. Leave a board game in the break room. If you see them playing it, bring another one. Repeat.

  4. Do a company-wide lip-dub like this epic masterpiece from PopCap Shanghai.

Whatever you do, remember the idea is to encourage your team to relax and have a good time. Unlike team building exercises which require mandatory participation to be successful, all of the above can be simply offered up as optional diversions, and you can observe and alter as needed.

Deep breaths.

This too shall pass.

#culture #stressmanagement #TipsampTricks

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