Stress Management: Why Bother??

which way do you want to go??


We all feel it, and the end of year can bring all kinds of extra stress for us with the semester winding down and holiday celebrations winding up. Working in libraries is no protection against workplace stressors; in fact, working with patrons – which is generally rewarding – can provide a significant amount of stress in our daily work.

I have spent a lot of time talking with library people across the country about workplace stress, and it was pretty depressing. Most of us are here because we enjoy our jobs, they provide us with a lot of professional satisfaction, and despite the problems we face libraries are still great places to work!

But minimizing discussion of workplace stress just minimizes the real problems we face. It is better to face the issue, and to help ourselves and our staff to resolve problems that can be fixed and to get some training to handle problems that cannot. Stress causes all kinds of problems, from an uncomfortable workplace to workers suffering from burnout and never able to return to their jobs. Employee health is an important part of providing good service, and stress can just torpedo that.

Everywhere I went to conferences to talk about stress, people would come up to me and whisper that they were glad someone was talking about this. They thought they were alone in it, that they were doing something wrong because they were feeling stress.

Ignoring stress does not make it go away!

Thinking that “real” librarians wouldn’t get stressed is incorrect!

Acknowledging this is an issue in our profession is important – and the best way to help us all to overcome it. We need to think about ways to manage workplace stress on the individual level, in our library organizations, and across the profession.

So this is our December Monthly Topic: Stress Management. We can’t fix everything in your workplace, but we hope we can give you some tools to work with and some ideas to think about in your library. 

We will also be passing on a few tips to help you manage stress during December. Stressed out is no way to celebrate the holidays, or to enjoy your time at work – so let’s all deliberately focus on reducing the negative side effects of stress!

  • For a quick stress-busting break just close your eyes, breath in deeply, hold, and breath out with some gusto. An extra boost of oxygen can help you to feel calmer and ready to face the challenges!
  • Multiple reliable studies have been done to show that meditation helps to make positive changes to the structure of your brain, as well as helping you to feel more relaxed and resilient. The Mayo Clinic has a video lasting about seven minutes to guide you through a short meditation session. (Remember: this is not wasting time – reducing your stress levels means you are able to work more effectively!)
  • Take about four minutes and watch this aquarium video. (Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan) Maximize it on your screen for the full effect.You can  listen to the song, or mute it depending on how you feel. Watching fish swimming is a proven way to reduce stress levels and to lower blood pressure. If you don’t have your own fish, there are many videos available online!

And of course, we are focusing on handling situational stress during this month. If you are feeling excessive anxiety or depression that you can not shake, there are some great medical solutions to help you! Please do not let the idea that you “should” feel better interfere with calling your doctor and taking steps to really feel better. A diabetic would not “just snap out of it” and not have to take insulin; likewise when a doctor can help with anxiety and depression – let them!

Holidays can be hard, so know you have places to reach out for help. The National Suicide Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. Use it, or pass it on to others who can reach out. We also have a variety of phone numbers across Minnesota to call for help, so please call if you need help – they are waiting for you!

Remember: we are always available at CMLE Headquarters to come chat in your library, about stress, about conflict management, or about any other library topics! We will spend the rest of December working together to manage workplace stress; and hopefully our ideas will carry us through the next year!