June 6, 2014

The Perfect Amount of Stress

The last week has been a crazy blur of activity. We are nearing our big go-live for work, and since my role on the program is release management, that means it’s crunch time. I knew that this time was coming, but compared to our previous go-live, it just seems so much crazier! I feel like I’m drowning in work, and that there’s never enough time in the day to get it all done. (On the plus side, this week we were able to bring on another analyst for the team, so hopefully that will help ease the workload a bit.)

But while I’m pretty stressed from morning to night (okay, and even through the night when I lie awake worrying about different scenarios and making lists in my head for everything that still has to get done), I’m actually finding that… I love it. There’s that old joke about how if you want something done, you shouldn’t ask the person with nothing to do; you should ask the person who is swamped with everything to do, because they’ll be the most likely to hop to and actually do it. As weird as that concept may seem, I find that it really holds true for me.

On Wednesday night, I was the last one to leave the office, and I only left at that point because I was already an hour late for dinner plans with my friend Kaycee. I still had so much to do, and felt kind of guilty leaving. But on Thursday when I got in to the office, I found myself extra-motivated to work as efficiently as possible and GSD. I could feel the difference in my meetings – I was more confident, more engaged, and more authoritative with what I needed, and I really think the stress helped me achieve peak performance. Today, my to-do list is still pretty long, but I got so much done yesterday that I’m finally not panicking and running around like a chicken with my head cut off.

Oiselle Run - Blend Retreat
Instead, I can run for fun, in the beautiful mountains of Utah!

So I took all these positive things as a sign that maybe the right amount of stress isn’t a bad thing. In this case, yes, there were moments when I wanted to give up, but there was also a powerful high from knowing that I had a lot of responsibility and that I was being trusted to find a way to make it all happen. Everything that I needed to do was stuff that was right in my wheelhouse and that I knew how to do – it was finding ways to do it quickly and efficiently that was the challenge.

And yet, with the extra stress hormones pumping through me, I found a way to get it all (okay, mostly) done. I haven’t been much of a coffee drinker lately, but at the end of a particularly stressful day yesterday, I felt incredibly wired, like I had just sucked down a few sodas or coffees before bed. That’s adrenaline! As one of my favorite songs from my marathon playlist goes, “Gimme gimme more!”, because when I take on more, it seems that I find a way to handle it and do it even better than when I have less.

Is it weird that it’s stressful times like this that I love my job? There have been times that work has been so stressful it’s made me cry (once I got home, of course) – and that’s certainly not a good thing. But this level of stress is what makes me rise to the occasion and bring my A-game. I’m hoping that by writing this post, it will help me remember to look at stress as a positive challenge rather than as something to avoid. Not all stress is bad, and it can push you to do things you never thought possible.

Think about exercise. Anytime you resistance train or run further than you have before, that’s putting stress on your body. Too much is bad – you don’t want to throw out your lower back doing deadlifts, and you don’t want to go from running 3 miles to running 26.2 miles in one shot. (Hi, BFF, who did this two years ago. I told you so!) But finding the level of stress that is just enough can get you to raise your standards and rise to the challenge.

But with all that now off my chest, I’m off to one of the least stressful places there is – the amazing Blend Retreat in Park City, Utah. Last year, I was terrified about not knowing anyone and worried that I wouldn’t be able to make friends. This year, I’m really excited to get to see so many of the friends I made last year, and make new friends. It’s going to be a blast!


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