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The Takeaway: 9 Ways to Reduce Stress

March 15, 2010

The Takeaway is a series of posts about important lessons, insights, or stories that we’ve learned from our professional development workshops at The Volunteer Center.

Our latest workshop at The Volunteer Center was presented by Jerry Pinney, who is a professional coach and . The workshop was all about how people in the non-profit world can reduce the amount stress both in their lives and in their workplace. His lessons seemed especially valuable in our current situation, with so many organizations facing rising needs for their services but decreasing funding from state and other sources. Needless to say we’re all just a little bit stressed. So, here were nine things that Jerry said everyone can do to reduce stress every single day (along with my comments on some of them):

1. Stop Arguing

– One of his best tips was trying to control the volume of a room. If someone else is speaking at an elevated volume, don’t do the same. Either maintain your lower volume or, if things get too heated, just walk away and approach the issue later.

2. Stop Giving your Unsolicited Opinion

– People at non-profits definitely operate with a herd mentality. One of my favorite jokes is to ask people what their job title is at a non-profit, since everyone wears so many hats. Sometimes though, people reach for a hat that isn’t theirs, and that creates more stress for everyone. It makes a simple kind of sense: if no one asks for your opinion, don’t give it.

3. Stop Reacting when Others Speak Angrily

4. Stop Requiring Perfection of Yourself and Others

5. Stop Trying to Please Everyone

6. Stop Trying to Make Everyone Like You

– Non-profit people are in the business of serving others, and we do tend to ask for everyone’s opinion and try to make their voice be heard.  So I think #5 and #6 can be a real challenge. Especially when it comes to your expertise, sometimes you need to dig your heels in and say “no” or express your opinion. While this might feel stressful in the moment, it avoids one of the biggest stressors there is: regret. Which leads to #7:

7. Stop Grieving About Past Mistakes

– So your “Donate or Else” campaign didn’t work out as you planned, or your outdoor chocolate fundraiser was meltier than you expected. Life goes on. Learn to laugh about it, or even see how you can benefit from it.

8. Stop Worrying About What Might Happen

9. Stop Researching & Analyzing and Start Doing

– #8 and #9 present some of my biggest challenges on a day-to-day basis. Especially as someone who is new to the sector (not to mention the professional world), I have definitely found that I over-Google and over-research things, for fear that it may go wrong. But ultimately we learn so much more by doing, and nothing really gets done if you spend more than half your time preparing for what is to come.

Do you have any secrets to reducing stress on the job? Yoga? Squeeze toys? Please share any insights in the comments below. If you don’t have anything to say, don’t stress about it.

Jerry Pinney is a professional coach and TVC’s Board President. You can sign up for his regular newsletter here. If you’re interested in attending future workshops and professional trainings, visit our website for more information.

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