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Dig deep to find a way to meet greater expectations

By Liz Reyer, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

QUESTION: I feel like I’m running on empty, with increasing expectations and not enough support. It’s getting hard to stay positive and motivate my team. What can I do?

ANSWER: Invest in replenishing your personal resources so you can take on the professional challenges.

Start by giving yourself permission to accept your current feelings. You may feel like you “should” feel a different way, but that won’t help you move forward. Take some deep breaths and move into a calm state of mind from which you’ll be able to assess your situation and consider alternatives.

So, what’s up at work? Think about the specifics of the expectations that you’re perceiving. Where are the expectations coming from — your boss, other internal sources, clients or even from yourself? What is causing the most stress? How long has it been going on? Something that is endurable for a week or a month may not be sustainable for the long haul. If you notice anxiety emerging while you do this, just breathe and let it go.

Now consider the support side of the equation. What, specifically, would it mean to get enough support? It may be tangible — more staff or funding. Or it may be intangible in the form of recognition of the pressure your team is under or acknowledgment of your accomplishments.

Also look at your life outside work; if you’re depleted there, you’ll be less resilient with work pressures. What is your level of stress with relationships, children, volunteering, aging parents, your health, pets, etc. You get the idea — think about all aspects of life. Recognize if you’re running deficits in these areas and notice places that build you up.

Since you need to build up your energy in order to help others, the focus will be on ways to replenish your reserves.

On the work front, get your boss involved, requesting the support that would be helpful. Don’t be deterred if you have to make a business case for the more tangible types. Also seek out trusted peers to talk to for emotional support. Odds are that, if you’re feeling stressed at work, others are, too, and you can provide each other valuable encouragement.

Be sure to spend some time at work on the aspects of your job that you like most — don’t let them get squeezed out.

Pour attention on yourself outside work. When you’re running on empty, it’s easy to put yourself last. If you can, take a day off just to rest or do things that are fun. Work will get by without you, and it sounds like you really need it. Build some energizing activities, large or small, into your life. They could be as structured as an exercise class, or as spontaneous as more chats on the phone with your friends.

Take care of the basics, too, eating nutritious food and getting enough exercise and sleep.

Ditch the energy vampires, whether they are people or activities, and prioritize your time so that you aren’t overextended.

Take care of yourself so you have the energy to meet the expectations of others.

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