Relax your ears. Then relax your neck. Then relax your arms and legs.

Soft Skill Spotlight: Stress Management

Sometimes we know it immediately: our minds race, our bodies tense up, and it takes all our energy to keep from screaming in frustration. But a lot of the time the signs of stress are easier to miss.

Welcome back to our new Soft Skills for Career Success series. Every month, we’ll feature a new soft skill (aka life skill) that can help you succeed in the workplace and beyond.

Last month, we wrote about resilience—that seemingly magic quality that allows us to survive and even thrive during challenging times. But what if, even as we strive to develop resilience, we find our bodies and minds full of stress?

Not to worry. That’s totally normal. Even the most resilient among us experience stress.

And, like resilience strategies, stress management tools can benefit both your personal life and career. Every job comes with stressors. So what to do? How do we improve our ability to deal with stress?

The first and arguably most important step is to learn how to recognize stress. Sometimes we know it immediately: our minds race, our bodies tense up, and it takes all our energy to keep from screaming in frustration. But a lot of the time the signs are easier to miss. Here are some stress symptoms to look out for:

  • You’re tired. You find yourself sleeping more, but no matter how many extra Zs you grab, you can’t seem to stop yawning. Or you find yourself on the opposite end of the spectrum: No matter how tired you are, you just can’t seem to fall asleep.
  • Your appetite has changed. You find yourself snacking way more than you usually do, or you never feel hungry anymore. Stress can alter our appetites in weird ways.
  • You’re SO irritated. You find yourself feeling way grumpier than usual. You’re snapping at family, friends, maybe even strangers. Everyone is getting on your last nerve.
  • You just can’t. Your brain and body both seem to be saying, “Nope.” You try to start your homework but can’t focus the way you usually can. You try to go for a run but your legs don’t. want. to. move.
  • Your emotions are taking you on a rollercoaster. One minute, you’re fine. The next, you’re sobbing into your bag of Cheetos.
  • Your body aches. You have a headache. Your stomach hurts. You feel sick.

So, if you don’t feel stressed, but you’re experiencing one or more of the above symptoms? Listen up—your body and mind are trying to tell you something. Here are ways to get back to a healthy place:

  • Chill, chill, chill. Take a break from your homework. Take a break from your chores. Take time to do something you enjoy.
  • Choose healthy snacks. Your body is telling you to snack? Alright, grab an apple. Try to avoid junk food. It will make you feel good temporarily, but it won’t help you reduce stress in the long term.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Stop looking at screens at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night. Set an alarm for the morning. Breathe deeply and focus on your breath until you fall asleep.
  • Go outside. Spending time outside has proven stress-reduction and health benefits.
  • Write about it or talk about it. Give yourself time to write it out, or talk to a trusted friend. Putting words to the stress can help you process the problem.
  • Problem solve, but only once you’re feeling calm. If the source of your stress is something you can change, take a little time to brainstorm solutions. If it’s not something you can change? Remind yourself that this situation will pass.

While improving your relationship to stress takes time and effort, it’s worth it. You will be healthier and better prepared to advance in your career.

Have another stress-management strategy that helps you? Let us know in the comments, or shoot an email to us at jobsforyouth@smcgov.org. We’d love to learn from you.


Want to learn more strategies for improving your soft skills? Browse our other Soft Skills for Career Success blog posts and check back next month for a new topic. You can also email jobsforyouth@smcgov.org to sign up for one of our career-success workshops or check out our workbooks to further develop your skills on your own.

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