Managing Workplace Stress

Workplace stress is a prevalent issue for many professionals, but it can be particularly challenging for Assistants. A recent study revealed that an astonishing 45% of Assistants suffer from workplace stress. This stress can manifest in various ways, including feeling tearful, bored, scared, or unsure. It can also lead to low self-confidence, isolation, and other negative emotions. Recognising these feelings and understanding their triggers is crucial for managing stress effectively. In a recent Practically Perfect PA Virtual Summit session, Pamela Leonce shared her advice on how Assistants can start managing workplace stress.

One of the most iconic portrayals of a high-stress work environment for an Assistant is the film “The Devil Wears Prada.” In the film, Meryl Streep plays Miranda Priestly, the editor-in-chief of Runway Magazine, who has two Assistants, Andrea (Andy) and Emily. Miranda is demanding and expects her Assistants to anticipate her needs before she even asks. The work environment is intense and stressful, especially for Andy, the new Assistant. The film highlights the challenges that Assistants face in high-pressure situations and the importance of finding ways to cope with stress.

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Here are some strategies for managing workplace stress as a Assistant:

  • Recognise the Signs: The first step in managing stress is to recognise the signs and symptoms. Pay attention to your emotions and physical sensations. If you find yourself feeling tearful, bored, scared, or unsure, take note of the circumstances that trigger these feelings.
  • Communicate with Your Executive: Your Executive is not a mind reader. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed about a particular issue, it’s essential to communicate with your Executive. Rehearse what you’re going to say and try to offer a solution. For example, if you had a challenging night dealing with family matters and need to leave early or take an extended lunch break, let your Executive know. Most Executives want to help and support their Assistants, so it’s crucial to keep the lines of communication open.
  • Share with Others: Don’t keep your stress a secret. Share your feelings with trusted colleagues, friends, or family members. As a coach, I recommend creating a “supervision circle” of individuals who can offer support, share tips, and provide a safe space to vent. Another option is to have a “dial-up buddy” – someone you can call or message when you need a boost of energy or support.
  • Take Time Out: When you’re feeling stressed, it’s essential to take time out to recharge. Whether it’s taking a long lunch, leaving work early, or taking a day off, give yourself permission to rest and recuperate. Plan your holidays and take time off, even if you don’t have specific plans. Your body needs rest, and taking time away from work can help you return with renewed energy and focus.
  • Own Your Health: Ultimately, you are responsible for your health and well-being. When your health is compromised, it can be challenging to regain it. Recognise the signs of stress and take proactive steps to manage it. Tell your boss, share with others, and take time out when needed.

Managing workplace stress is a common issue for Assistants, but it can be managed with the right strategies. Recognise the signs, communicate with your Executive, share with others, take time out, and prioritise your health. By taking these steps, you can reduce the impact of stress on your well-being and perform at your best as an Assistant. Remember, you don’t want to be part of the 45% of Assistants who suffer from workplace stress. Take action to protect your health and well-being.