By Nicole Millman-Falk, CAE
Association executives are in a constant state of activity, bombarded daily with a relentless flow of work and personal demands. Consider that the average person is interrupted seven times an hour; that’s more than 2.1 hours a day! Thirty-five percent of our days are taken up with emails. Add to this mix dealing with difficult members of our staff, leadership, or members; self-imposed doubts; personal problems, including health, physical, emotional or spiritual issues; and challenges on the home front. This adds up to one stressful day.
"People feel stressed when they feel out of control," said Sharon Melnick, PhD, speaker at NYSAE’s Executive Women in Nonprofits SIG. Melnick is a leading authority on business psychology and on stress resilience and the author of the book Success under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive when the Pressure’s On. However, there are always three things you can control—your physiology, your psychology, and your performance."
Melnick suggests making a list of those things you can control, as well as those you can't. "Then focus your time and emotional energy on what you can do to be even more effective at what you can control. It’s not about stress management; it’s about self-management," she said.
Melnick offered several techniques to calm yourself when you feel the pressure is on. One, she labels a "cooling breath." Breathe slowly in through your mouth as if you are sipping air through a straw. The cool that you feel helps to calm you and those around you.
When your nervous system responds to the demands of the day, another way to optimize your energy is to balance your "on" and "off" buttons. Working at full capacity for 90 minutes followed up by three to four minutes of recovery or down time can be very effective for rejuvenation. Your down time can consist of meditation, deep breathing, a walk around the block or the office, or even a quick game of solitaire—anything that lets you disconnect.
This sprint-recovery pattern will enable you to have steady focus throughout the day and come home with more energy for the night. This approach will help you sustain your high performance for the long haul," said Melnick.
"Intentionality is the antidote to stress," she advised. Ultimately, being thoughtful and strategic, rather than tactical and reactive, will help you be more in control and feel less stressed.
NYSAE's Executive Women in Nonprofits Gallery
Nicole Millman-Falk, CAE, is President of Millman-Falk Communications, LLC, providing strategic communication services for trade associations, professional societies, and donor-based organizations. In addition to her own company, she serves as Editor for Apogee Publications, which provides turnkey association newsletters, magazines, and membership directories. She is Editor of NYSAE’s InView and is Chair of this year’s Awards Committee. She can be reached at 201-652-1687; firstname.lastname@example.org; or through her website at www.millmanfalkcommunications.com.