I'll have to admit that this hasn't exactly been my go-to word during stressful times of change. So, when Stefanie Krievins challenged me to pause in times of stress, I realized that although the suggestion itself was simple, the execution may not be easy.
The full challenge was this: when up against a stressful moment, I should pause and ask myself, "What do I need to move forward right now?" Then, do exactly that. I committed to trying this for a week. To hold myself accountable, I kept a journal to track how often I used this technique each day.
During that week, I used this technique precisely 14 times, and here is what I found:
It's essential to think about what we (ourselves) need in the moment
The wording of Stefanie's challenge is somewhat profound: what do "I" need, right now. The more I used this, the more I realized that during the most stressful times, my focus is typically, and almost exclusively, on what others need.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we shouldn't think about what others need. It's just that in the most stressful moments, it is time to tend to what we require ourselves to regain, refocus, and move forward. Related to the insights about stress that I shared in my previous blog post about energy management, stress is our body's warning signal. It is meant to help us tend to our safety and wellbeing. When ignored, it lingers, negatively impacting our health and our ability to operate at our best.
So during the week, in moments of stress, I tended to what I needed to move forward. You might ask, what exactly was that?
I needed a break
For me, I typically needed to take a break, anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. I would use this time for a short meditation, for catching up with someone, or for taking a walk. After a few days, I no longer saw this as taking breaks, but rather how I naturally segmented my day. I ended up settling into a work schedule that aligns with my personal energy, and it felt great.
Of course, there were moments where taking a break just wasn't feasible. However, I didn't need as many breaks with my new approach to working. I was not only feeling less stress in difficult moments but was also more comfortable with waiting until I could take a break. It became somewhat of a reward that I could earn by persevering, and it worked.
These lessons were valuable in themselves, but when considering the connection to leading through change, I learned something almost more valuable.
People appreciated me more
Yes, it's true: the more I tended to what I needed in the moment, the more I was recognized and appreciated. The quality of my work was likely the same, but my level of presence, calm, and focus improved. I also became better at setting boundaries around how I worked, which increased my sense of empowerment with my work.
To be clear, it was always up to me to appropriately manage my workload and wellbeing. However, being intentional about what I needed alleviated concerns about my workload, and allowed me to be more present with the people around me.
This exercise taught me how to better lead through change, imperfectly but confidently, and with a sense of calm that not only benefits me but also those around me.
So, I encourage you to think about what you need to move forward in stressful moments, and then go for it, with intention and without guilt. Your needs may be different from mine, but if you tend to them, you might find that your ability to lead through change greatly improves.
I imagine that people will notice.
Rebecca Scott is the founder of Vivid Spring Solutions. She is a Certified Business Analysis professional with over 16 years of experience driving projects and providing key insights that lead to creative solutions. She is also a public speaker and mother of 4.
The views stated here are solely the author’s and do not represent those of any client or employer.