“Ohmigosh, is that what my resting face looks like?!” My reflection in the subway window horrified me. I was stressed out and stuck in a professional crisis, due to working countless hours, weekends, and nights for very little money at my job. My mini Manhattan apartment was supposed to be a haven. But with a family of mice in the kitchen and jackhammers in the street, it looked a lot less glamorous than Tiny Home, Big Living. Back then, my life felt more like a fixer upper.
Turns out, I was not alone. Now as an entrepreneur, I speak with women about how to launch their own businesses as a vehicle for financial freedom. Daily, they share similar experiences to my own. Many are caught between jobs, shackled in multiple student loans with climbing interest rates, credit card debt, or asking for help from their parents. They send hundreds of shiny resumes into the void only to be met with silence, grumble about their bosses, and question their futures. No one ever told them the “best years of their lives” would be filled with so much professional confusion and angst.
Is this you? Chances are, you are caught in a cycle of stress around your professional life.
Stress is the new normal. According to the American Psychological Association, millennial women are more likely to feel high levels of stress than men, their parents, and their grandparents combined. Unchecked stress can increase risk of heart conditions, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, depression and gastrointestinal issues.
If you have been feeling high levels of stress for several weeks in a row, it is time to take action. Here are 7 strategies to go from frazzled to fabulous in your professional life:
- See the hope. There is an economic shift happening and humanity is caught in the upheaval (that means you). According to Intuit’s study, 40 percent of workers, or 60 million people, will be freelancers by the year 2020. While you wait for a Fairy HR Godmother to offer you a safe, secure job, others are taking action. Stop and consider your alternatives. Instead of looking at all the clouds in your life, focus on the silver lining. You are standing in an opportunity of a lifetime. Where is the opportunity in your life?
- Refocus on the present: Your freedom, power and control exist in the present moment. Here is where you create and shape your reality. If the past is riddled with failures and the future seems worrisome, the present is your friend. Rest in the moment and believe that you are safe. In this time and place, there is abundance, light, and peace. Breathe into this truth and let your mind recenter itself. Envision yourself holding all of your worries in your hands. Slowly, release them. Watch them float away on a stream while you breathe a sigh of relief. Now shift your mindset to abundance. (These daily free meditations are a game changer).
- Get creative: Stephen Covey’s landmark work, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, advises to “start with the end in mind.” In your 20s and 30s, however, it is hard to predict the future. The world changes so quickly, you’re just trying to get through the week, right? A mentor once told me, “don’t let anyone put you in a box.” Instead, do everything you do well. Always put quality content into the world. Though you are not in a box, you are right where you need to be.
- Let go of perfectionism, embrace discovery: Stress is often the result of internal expectations about who you should be and what you should do. This is your “blueprint” for life. If the blueprint does not align with your present reality, it causes stress. Instead, make discovery and learning your new goal. Discovery allows for creativity, messiness, growth and room for failure. Focus on discovering instead of aiming for perfection. For more on this topic, check out Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck.
- Invest in yourself. There are opportunities everywhere for the person who has eyes to see them. According to Sheryl Sandberg, women overlook opportunities if they feel unqualified. Focus on the only thing you can control: yourself. Expand yourself in some way. Find people who have what you want and ask how they did it. Accept every opportunity that comes your way (even if you have no idea how to do it. You can learn!) Take a getaway to refresh your mind (if your budget allows), or learn a new language.
- Take back your life. If your planner is filled with tasks to satisfy other people’s agendas, push pause. Ask yourself whether you need to be spending your life making other people’s dreams come true. Get brutally honest with yourself. Perhaps you are stressing about unnecessary things. Start imagining what your dream life will look like. Will you have time freedom? 70% of millennials report the primary reason they work at all is to be able to travel. Would you like to work from exotic locations? Will you take action on that business idea? Make a list of SMART goals to move your projects forward.
- Start before you are ready. I know there's a lot of pressure to stick with what is familiar. It works enough, right? Risk is scary and can trigger another rabbit trail of stressful thinking. Start taking action toward your dreams. Make a list of things that interest you and keep developing it. Highlight which top three goals you would like to prioritize for the week. Believe that you already have everything you need to learn, grow, and master every responsibility, challenge, and opportunity that comes your way. It is inside you waiting to be shared with the world.