Working Under Pressure: My advice & tips for staying sane at work
Updated: Apr 7, 2019
This week a friend of mine was let go from their job very suddenly and I tried to find the right things to tell them. It got me thinking about jobs and how much of a big part it plays in our lives and how our jobs tend to take over our minds a bit. I have put together this blog post with a little piece of my job story for anyone who is interested and some tips I have for anyone who is finding themselves feeling a bit overwhelmed at work.
2015: I was working in the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin, chipping away at my degree and thesis during the day and working at the hotel’s restaurant for a few months before transferring to work at the reception. I worked full time between nights and weekends to pay my college fees. I felt completely overwhelmed most of the time, hospitality is exhausting. The FOMO (Fear of missing out) was strong while I watched most of my friends living their best lives at the weekend through my social media binoculars and compared it to my weekends which at the time consisted of being trapped in a crazy stress bubble.
Guest: This really is bloody ridiculous .. what’s your name..? Lorraine ..? I don't understand why I cant check in yet? It can't be that hard..
Me: I understand and I am terribly sorry sir but our check in time is 3pm and it isn't even 10am .. I physically don't have a room ready for you this early but I will do my absolute best to prioritise you and get you into a room as soon as someone has checked out..
Guest: NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Don't you know who I am? Can't you just check me in, I have really important places to be and this is really messing up my plans. If I am late for my conference it will be your fault. I want to talk to your manager right NOW.
I was surviving on 3 or so hours of sleep and unhealthy amounts of coffee. By the way, this stuff is all pretty bearable most of the time, except on Christmas Day when your family are at home together, eating Christmas dinner, playing monopoly and you're being screamed at by drunk people for taking too long finding their coats in the cloakroom.. or the view from their room being ‘a bit disappointing’. I promise, all this moaning will have a point in a few minutes.
I really couldn’t wait for it all to get easier, as I assumed it would, once I graduated from college. In my mind, I was at that weird junction of my life where I was almost finished the education part and just breaking into the career part. However, I felt I was stuck in traffic at that messy lane in between, doing both at the same time, and it seemed to go on for ages.
I spent my weekends and nights checking in extremely wealthy business people with ‘office-careers’ and more importantly: OFFICE HOURS which I was sooo jealous of and dreamt of having one day. By this stage, after two years of pouring tea and storing luggage for millionaires and celebrities, I was pretty sure that I had done my share of wiping tables and fake laughing at creepy drunk men's jokes . I knew I wanted an office career, it seemed like the ideal way to work - the guests I greeted everyday were all so successful and ‘happy’, clocked in at 9 and out at 5 and got to stay in 5* hotels for free so it must be the perfect life, right?! How hard could it be?
Fast forward to 2019: I am three years into a totally different role and industry, one that I feel so fortunate to have fallen into. It is an office based corporate job in the Aviation industry and I love it, but it really can be so stressful and mentally draining, as well as physically. Some weeks I feel like I have given all the life I have in me to it and none to anyone or anything else. I am so grateful to be where I am, I'm learning a huge amount every week, and have managed to climb the 'corporate ladder' a little bit already. I am ambitious and motivated and want to keep climbing and learning even if it does feel impossible sometimes.
Corporate / office life certainly isn't what I imagined it to be those few years ago when I had pictured it all so differently. I have met some amazing people and mentors in my job, and have had some unbelievable experiences, which I never thought I would have expected in a million years! One of the coolest things so far was being sent on a business trip to San Francisco for a week to work and meet my colleagues. I was put up in a fancy hotel and finally felt like I had hit one of the milestones I looked forward to and dreamt of when I was back at the other side of the desk in 2015.
It was fun and new and exciting but also WEIRD . I felt isolated, jet lagged and so so far away from everyone and everything I knew. I was thrilled to be given this cool experience but finally started to understand how the guests I once spoke to felt when they told me 'travelling and staying in fancy hotels alone for work isn't as fun as you might think!'
I missed lots of things about my old role at the hotel when I moved to an office job; things like simply just talking to people - you have no idea how quiet and isolating it feels to move from a crazy busy hotel desk to a quiet office. I spent the first few months chatting the ears off the post man, building caretakers and couriers everyday because I just missed being able to chat to and help people. I missed sending tourists to my favourite restaurants and places in Ireland, and then being there at my reception desk later that night when they would come running over to thank me for helping to make their day in a new city so perfect and memorable. I learnt so much behind that hotel desk and my experiences there gave me the confidence and ambition to go for anything I want in my life. That job pushed me to the edge a lot but it taught me so much about respect and hard work. It definitely made me the person I am today.
My point in the above rants is that the grass always looks greener on the other side and if you are not entirely happy where you are right now in your life, don't panic or get into a rut. Take absolutely everything you can from your current situation to grow and better yourself, as well as your skills. Make connections with people, and keep learning. I absolutely believe that everything happens for a reason, and if you are going through something negative at work right now, it is only because something amazing is on its way to you.
Here are some of my tips for staying sane when you feel under pressure at work:
1. Get out of work at lunch - Take a step back on your lunch break & get out for a little walk if you can. Try switch off and do something to take your mind off work.
2. Book a holiday - It doesn't have to be a big expensive trip of a lifetime but even try get away for a few nights to a nice hotel or do a city break. Give yourself small things to plan for and look forward to. It's a nice way of spending your hard earned money and treating yourself.
3. Make plans for after work - this is one of my big tips for general life wellness, as well as work sanity. It certainly isn't always possible for me, but when I do fit a walk or coffee date in after work, I find it really helps me switch off and de-stress before going back into work again the next day.
4. Ask for help - if you are feeling overwhelmed and not able to cope, ask your colleagues or mentors for their advice. Chances are they will be able to help or steer you in the right direction. They were probably all in your shoes at some point.
5. Take 5 - There have been countless times at all of my jobs up to now where I felt my head spinning from stress, and the only thing to do at that point is take five minutes to breathe and reset. I have genuinely been close to panic attacks sitting looking at an excel sheets and if I just close my eyes and breathe for a few minutes and have some tea or water, it helps so much. That's not to say I haven't had some full on meltdowns and cried from stress at work on many occasions but if you get to choose, I would recommend the five minute breather (less messy!).
If you've made it this far, well done and thanks for reading! I hope it helps.
If anyone has any feedback or questions they think I could help with, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org - don't hesitate, I'd love to help!
Hope you have a stress-free week, Laura xx