It’s been quite a year and a half. If you’re feeling pretty stressed out – you’re not alone: a staggering 90% of HR professionals say their stress levels have increased during the past year.

Maybe you spent months juggling your work around having your kids at home all day. I definitely found that a big challenge! Or maybe you’ve faced a personal loss. 

It may just be a steady accumulation of small problems. Perhaps the constant uncertainty of Covid – from canceled plans to difficulties getting groceries – has left you feeling exhausted. I hate not being able to plan ahead, and while I’m getting a tiny bit better at living with uncertainty, I’m still really looking forward to when life becomes a bit more predictable.

Stress is particularly tough on HR professionals. Maybe you’ve been helping employees through difficult issues, including bereavements. Perhaps you’ve had to push for employees to get the right support in place. You might well be feeling drained or even burned out.

Here are four things you can do to survive – and thrive! – in stressful, uncertain times.

  1. Be Kind and Sensitive … But Leave Work at Work

One of the things that likely makes you excel as an HR professional is your ability to be kind and sympathetic to employees who are going through a hard time. But this can easily end up causing you a lot of stress.

Maybe you lie awake worrying at night about other people’s problems – I’ve definitely struggled with that in the past. Or perhaps you’re finding it really hard to set appropriate boundaries between your professional and personal life.

Set hard boundaries on what’s professional and what’s personal. That might mean not taking calls after 5pm, for instance. It could mean saying “no” to an employee’s request that goes beyond the help and support you can provide. It might involve directing an employee to a different source of support, like an employee assistance program.

  1. Triage Your Schedule: Cut Out Unnecessary Meetings

Does it seem like you’re stuck in meetings all day long? If you’re scrambling to fit everything into your workday, then triage your schedule. Take a good hard look at which meetings are genuinely important – and which meetings you could easily skip. Perhaps simply being copied into the minutes would be enough to keep you informed.

This can be a good point to delegate to other team members. Maybe someone else could attend a meeting instead of you – giving them an opportunity for professional growth, and giving you some much-needed time to catch up on emails or important paperwork.

  1. Encourage Employee Wellbeing Policies (and Take Advantage of These!)

As an HR professional, you’re probably already advocating for policies that help employees’ wellbeing. Maybe with the sudden rise of remote working, you’ve helped set up regular social times for employees to connect with one another – or perhaps you’ve pushed for your company to provide help with issues like having the appropriate equipment to work from home.

Keep advocating for wellbeing policies. They can be a great way to solve your own stresses – like worries about employee retention – as well as to make life happier for everyone in your company.

Of course, don’t forget that you should take advantage of the wellbeing policies too. If you’ve spearheaded a new initiative that encourages employees to take a “mental health day” as needed, then please take one when you need it too. I know it can be tough to prioritize yourself, especially when others need help – but if you burn out completely and need weeks off to recover, then you’ll not be able to help them anyway.

  1. Consider Structural Changes That Would Reduce Your Stress Levels

While it can be tough to push for major changes in your company, you might find that management is more open to suggestions than you think. There are lots of different ways HR can be run – including through models like co-employment, where a different company takes on the HR role. 

Obviously, you won’t want to do yourself out of a job … but if HR is just one of several hats you have to wear, then there are options out there! Just make sure you’re avoiding co-employment risks if your company does go down that route.

Even something as simple as having part-time admin support might make a huge difference to your stress levels. Or if you’ve got enough people but it’s hard to work together, look at options for HR software that could make it easier to share the workload.

Finally, if you’re struggling with stress … please go easy on yourself! I know it might be very tempting to hide the fact that you’re having difficulties, but don’t be afraid to reach out when you need support. 

If you can’t bring yourself to talk to anyone at work, at least confide in a supportive friend or family member. I find that just having someone to talk to can make a huge difference.