19 Tips to Make It, Not Break It
Many of us are in the make-or-break it season of our lives (hello stressful mid-terms! and professional projects!), and rifts often start to increase. But, there is hope for you and for those around you. By focusing on these strategies, you’ll discover how to bridge relationships with others, who are like you and who are not like you, and and realize/remember/reaffirm that we’re all in this together.
1. Burn some calories. It is easy to see the expansion of your to-do-list and feel like something has to be given up in order to achieve all the things. The two things that usually get thrown out first are exercise and sleep. Don’t do this! Your health is more important than anything on your to-do-list. And, you are no good to anyone in your organization or to yourself if you are worn thin and stressed out. Even if you only walk for 20-30 minutes on a treadmill while watching your favorite Netflix show, make time to do something.
2. Go to sleep. As mentioned before, sleep is one of the first tasks to go when your to-do-list begins to pile up. Your mind can’t function properly without the proper amount of rest and neither can your body. You may be able to function on a little sleep, but you are certainly not your best when you are not rested. And, don’t take your phone to bed with you because rest doesn’t come after you’ve seen all the cute animal videos, it comes from actually going to sleep.
3. Treat Yo Self. It may sound selfish but there is a great deal of evidence to support the idea of splurging on yourself. Get some ice cream, go to a movie, buy a new notebook, do something that makes you feel special. For me, it’s a haircut. There is something about a fresh cut that makes me feel like my best self.
4. Talk to someone. Everyone needs someone to talk to, and you are no different. Your organization is probably full of people dealing with some of the same stressors that you are facing. Find one of them and have a good vent session. Be sure to vent about situations and items that frustrate you and not the people responsible. There is plenty to say about this, but I’ll save it for another time. If you can’t find someone in your organization that you trust to vent to about the things you are dealing with, your institution has a number of people that you can turn to for this. Schedule an appointment and keep it. You won’t regret it.
5. Pay it forward. One of the best ways to feel better is to help someone else to feel better. Buy an extra coffee or muffin and bring it to class. Offer to help a fellow classmate or chapter member study. Spend time serving at a local food pantry or volunteer to read to kids. You don’t have to spend money to pay it forward, and the return you get is well worth the sacrifice you make.
6. Focus on the minutes – Instead of having a to-do-list that just stares at you as it grows into a small novel, put everything in a calendar or notebook and focus on minutes you will spend addressing each of those items. When the time is up, move on to the next one and come back to any unfinished business you have at another time. You will see it from a different point of view, and you will know just how long you have to work on the project rather than it looking like it will never get finished.
7. Put yourself out there. You may find the answer isn’t what you want, but you’ll only know if you try. I’ve taken to the practice of asking directly for what I need. And, I’ve found more often than not, I get exactly what I need because I asked for it. Be confident and be bold, you will surprise yourself with the power of your voice.
8. Walk to class + look at other people or nature (instead of your phone). You know what is awesome? Nature. Your Community. Fresh Air. Your Friends. A sunny day. Your walk outside. And you get to experience each of these things regularly, if you get your nose out of your phone and start living your life right now. Smile at people you meet. Compliment others as you pass them. Breathe in deep when you are outside in nature. You’ll find that there is lots to enjoy when you can enjoy the little things.
9. Eat better food. When you eat crap, you’ll feel like crap. Invest in yourself to eat better food – lean protein, enough veggies, and plenty of water. When you eat great food, you’ll feel much better, and it will make everything seem more doable because you have more energy, better focus, and can be more attentive.
10. Ask better questions. There are lots of dumb questions – let’s just get that out there. But there are also learning questions that have value. And, an attentive, reasonable question is always appreciated. When you want to learn more about the situation, more about others, and really expand your worldview, you need to learn to ask better questions. And you learn by practicing – so try it in your classes (teachers will love you), group meetings (the leaders will love you) and with your friends (your friends will love you). Better questions show others you are invested, interested and engaged – and always learning.
11. Stand up for what you believe. There was a time in my college organization that we took a vote. I was the only person that voted “no,” and everyone in the room looked at me (like I was crazy). I told the group, “You asked for my opinion, and I am comfortable with my vote. As a member of this group, you also asked me to support the group decision, and I will support the final result.” In that one vote, I learned a lot about who I was, standing up for what I wanted and the value of a team. I think about my decision (proudly and often) as I have to make decisions as a professional, and I am proud to stand up for what I know is right.
12. The power of one sentence. When you can define the problem (or solution) in one sentence, it helps you get to the root of the issue and better prepares you on the path to success.
13. Learn to say, “No.” I’m going through this exercise right now. I want to change the world! But I also know that I can’t be all things to all people, and when I say “yes” to something, that I’m also saying “no” to other things. We need to be ok with saying “no” for things so we can save our “yes” for the most important things.
14. Take a breath. In the heat of the moment, it can be easy to react and, at times, our immediate reactions can be harsh. When you find yourself in a moment of frustration with someone, before you lash out or roll your eyes, take a moment to breathe. Sometimes all we need to deal with a challenging situation or individual is take a pause and a deep breath.
15. Everyone is dealing with something. Have you ever wondered, “What is this person thinking?” or “Why would she do that?” There are times when our friends or coworkers act or don’t act in a way we think they should. In those times, we would be wise to remember that those individuals may be going through something we have no idea about. Before rushing to judgment about their behavior, take a moment to remember that they may have recently received heartbreaking news, a failing grade on an assignment, or tough feedback from a supervisor.
16. The Team “Take 5.” There is a great exercise out there for teams. During your next staff or student organization or chapter meeting, take 5 minutes at the start of the meeting to have individuals go around the room and share about how their current work, academic, or home life is going. This exercise can help team members learn more about one another and create feelings of compassion and understanding for individual circumstances.
17. Go have some fun. Plan a bowling night, visit the zoo during the holidays, or meet up for dinner. Hanging out and having FUN with your fellow classmates or coworkers outside of the work setting can be a great way to reduce the tension and create some bonds. You never know what you might learn about someone when you get out of the stress zone.
18. Check in. Did one of you friends or coworkers recently go through a tough time? Next time you see that individual take a moment to ask how he/she is doing. Be cautious not to press them for details but do let them know you are thinking of them and available should they need a listening ear. And if they do come to you later to talk, create that space and time for them to share.
19. Way to go. Offering a word of congrats or recognition is sometimes all we need to heal a strained relationship. Expressing appreciation can be difficult to do, especially with someone you do not particularly like or enjoy being around. But try it anyway, take that moment to humble yourself and offer a word of appreciation. It just might be the one thing that was needed to start a new and improved relationship with that person.