Today is Administrative Professionals' Day. This is the day where those in support roles are recognized for being amazing and keeping an organization working like a well-oiled machine. Today, the focus need to be, not just on the miraculous support we provide, but on the stress and overwhelming feelings that come along with the position. It's time to support those who support everyone else.
Let's face it. Being a Fill-In-The-Blank Assistant means you become the be-all, end-all. You do literally everything and do it without breaking a sweat (Let's be honest, you also look fabulous doing it).
For me, being an Executive Assistant to a CEO is stressful, but also maintaining support for the rest of the staff can be overwhelming. My job description may say I do one job, but that's never the case. I have my hand in everything and I do it well. I am extremely good at taking care of others, but I also need to make sure that I'm healthy. I practice self-care to keep my mind and body in check.
Self-care is any intentional actions you take to care for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Taking care of your health doesn't just mean physical. Your mental and emotional health are just as important to overall health as physical.
Here is a list of self-care tips for the busy administrative professional:
1. Set and maintain professional boundaries.
Don't let your work life bleed into your personal life, and vice versa. It's important to set clear and concise boundaries. Letting work overtake your life is extremely unhealthy. For example, I make it a point to not answer any emails (or look at them) during the weekend because that is my family time. My job is Monday through Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm. And I try very hard to keep it that way. I have also made sure that my boundaries are respected by other on my staff. I am only contacted during off hours if it is an emergency situation. And I respect their boundaries too, by doing the same. Make sure you also balance your work schedule with life demands so no one day or one week is too much.
2. Start a compliments file.
Document the great things people say about you to read later. This is especially a good idea if you're having a bad day. Reading nice things people have said about you will life you up. When I was in college, I was a Resident Advisor. Part of my job was staff development. I had the staff create compliment jars. Each person on staff had to write something nice about everyone and put it in their jar. The purpose was to show support, but also give someone something nice to read on a bad day. I have a card from my staff on last Administrative Professional's Day where they all told me how awesome I am. When I feel really stressed, I like to look at the card to be reminded that I do a great job and what I do is worthwhile.
3. Unplug for an hour.
Switch everything to airplane mode and free yourself from the constant bings of social media and email. When your life is only lit by the light on your phone or computer screen, it's very dim. Take time for yourself away from the constant buzz of incoming emails, calls, or texts. Just relax and enjoy life around you, instead of like on the small screens. If your work seems to take over everything, just start with an hour. Maybe eventually you could get to a whole day unplugged or a week for vacation. I've done it and it's been extremely difficult, but I know I enjoyed by vacation so much more because of it.
4. Take deep breaths.
Whenever I'm feeling extremely overwhelmed, I make sure to take some deep breaths before trying to tackle whatever my workload looks like. Deep breathing can help reduce anxiety as well as lower and/or stabilize blood pressure. It's important to make sure you're breathing, especially during stressful situations. It does no one any good if you pass out because you were overwhelmed and weren't breathing.
5. Exercise Regularly.
Exercise is a powerful stress reliever. This is an effective way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both mind and body. Try walking, running, dancing, swimming, or any other activity that will get your heart pumping. Aim for at least 30 minutes of stimulating activities a day. As the wise Elle Woods from Legally Blonde) said, "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy."
6. Do activities that don't require a lot out of you.
Do things that you find are a lot of fun without requiring too much brain power. For example, coloring is great at relieving stress. How much stress did you have has a kid while coloring? Exactly. Personally, I love to read. I always make sure I have some time for myself and just read. My go-to's are romance novels--mostly because they don't require a lot of brain involvement and that means I can relax. So go on down to your local store and pick up some adult coloring books, crayons/colored pencils, and great mindless books. You'll feel better in no time!
7. Listen to music.
As someone who is a huge fan of music, I fully stand by the effects that music can have on your well-being. Listen to music that soothes you. I love singing along with my music. It makes me happy and gets rid of pesky stress. Plus, I also feel super accomplished if I can remember the words to a particularly difficult song. I'm looking at you, Hamilton: An American Musical. If you're wondering what effects listening to music can have on your body, you can read more about it here.
8. Do something for yourself.
When life is overwhelming, sometimes you need to take a moment and do something for yourself. Personally, I love getting massages or getting my nails done. It's something that makes me look good, and therefore I feel good. With the daily grind of work and families, it's important to take time for yourself. Go to a wine tasting. See a movie you've been wanting to see. Go out dancing. Splurge on something nice for yourself, just because. The possibilites are endless, the only requirement is that it's for you.
9. Clean your desk.
When life is overwhelming, having a cluttered desk is only going to make it worse. Because I am always constantly working on multiple projects at once, my desk regularly looks like a hurricane came by. When it gets to be too much stuff on my desk, it makes me feel even more overwhelmed. I take time once a week to clean up my desk. I organize and clean. I then prioritize my stuff for what needs to get done next. By cleaning your desk, you're also creating a healthy workspace.
10. Smile and laugh.
A recent research study found that just the act of smiling, even if you don't feel like it, could be enough to change your mood. Something about how different facial muscles communicate with your brain. Don't you remember people telling you that laughter is the best medicine? Well, it's true. Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connectes you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused and alert. Read a comic book. Watch a comedy or TV show that makes you laugh. I suggest something that is completely stupid that you can't help laughing at.
While some workplace stress is normal, excessive stress can interfere with your productivity and impact your physical, mental, and emotional health. Self-care is an excellent way to support yourself while supporting everyone around you. You also don't have to be an administrative professional to benefit from these self-care tips.
In case someone doesn't say it today (you can add these to your compliments file):
You're a rock star. Everything you do is fabulous. I know how you feel and I've been where you've been, so I know how great being appreciated is. Your workplace is extremely lucky to have you. You're an incredible asset. Keep up the good work!
Mrs. Alvarez is the Executive Assistant for the Carson J Spencer Foundation. She graduated from San Jose State University with a degree in Public Relations and is now leading communication efforts, maintaining the office, and supporting all staff. She coordinates all social media initiatives for this Denver-based nonprofit known for innovation in suicide prevention. In addition, she facilitates all staff needs and coordinates all details pertaining to the CEO. She has a passion for the mental health movement and suicide prevention. She also received the highest award—the Gold Award—from the Girl Scouts and was in Sigma Alpha Lambda, an honors fraternity, in college.