Clearly define your ‘why’. When you know why you are working on what you’re working on and why it matters to you, it’s much easier to make decisions that support momentum and progress towards that ‘why’. If you’re just doing something because someone asked you to or you feel like you should, the work will feel lifeless and stressful. When you are connected to what you’re doing, the work will fill you up and give you more and more energy to continue. Defining your ‘why’ might take some additional time at the beginning but it will serve you forever and allow you to perform work that you’re truly proud of.
With all that’s going on in our country, in our economy, in the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. We know that chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. For many of us, our work, our livelihood, is a particular cause of stress. Of course, a bit of stress is just fine, but what are stress management strategies that leaders use to become “Stress-Proof” at work? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help to reduce or even eliminate stress from work? As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kat Short.
Kat Short is a writer and creative entrepreneur living in Denver, CO. In 2017, she founded Tell Your Damn Story to help individuals and businesses harness the power of storytelling to create alignment and success. In 2022, she founded Cafe Radiance to reconnect adults with their creative spirit. She is on a mission to bring more connectedness, joy, and resilience to the world through authentic storytelling and creativity.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!
My story has been winding and non-linear. I did not come into adulthood knowing what I wanted to ‘be when I grew up’. I was (and still am) a late bloomer. Words have always been my superpower and my way of connecting to myself and the world around me. While I’ve had about a million different jobs and roles, writing and teaching and creativity have been the common denominators through it all. I didn’t know what I was doing in 2017 when I started my first business as a storytelling coach and consultant, all I knew was that I couldn’t keep doing what I had been doing and I had a way with stories and words that might be of service in our increasingly disconnected world. One next right step after another has landed me here, running a creativity business and working on my first book about the art of personal storytelling.
What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?
So so many. If I had to narrow it down to 3, they would be:
- Don’t be afraid of your intuition. Yes, it will lead you off the beaten path, but it will also lead you home.
- If something feels off, it usually is. Trust that and act accordingly.
- Your life force energy is finite and precious. Use it for things that bring you joy, give you a sense of purpose, and feed your soul. Life is too short to settle for feeling small, unworthy, and uninspired.
None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?
There are so many people, I wouldn’t know where to begin. My family, my friends, my pets. But I think right now I’d like to thank my ‘book friends’. The books I’ve carried around with me throughout various seasons of my life that felt like friends and helped me grow and expand to the next level. These include (but are not limited to): The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, The Source of Self Regard by Toni Morrison, Upstream by Mary Oliver, The Alchemist by Paolo Cohello, Nejma by Nayirrah Waheed.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?
I am! I’m in the process of turning the online Cafe Radiance platform into an app! It’s a huge leap and learning opportunity butI know it’s the next right step. Creativity doesn’t just happen when you’re sitting at a desk behind a computer, it happens out there in the world. I want to meet people there and let them take their creativity where it leads.
Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?
I define stress as letting the mind get away from the moment.
In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?
We are inundated with more information than is healthy or possible to process. Our minds and spirits are overloaded with external input and this leads us very far away from our intuition and internal cues for balance and harmony. We have to work very hard to take rest and space and we were not designed to be ‘on’ all of the time.
What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?
- Physical tension and pain
- Depression, anxiety
- Disconnection from self
- Fear and panic
Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?
Of course! Everything natural is good in moderation. Stress, or perhaps I should say urgency, allows us to protect ourselves from danger, complete necessary tasks, and maintain investment in purpose and productivity.
Is there a difference between being in a short term stressful situation versus an ongoing stress? Are there long term ramifications to living in a constant state of stress?
Short-term stress is natural and healthy. If you are crossing the street and see a car coming towards you, you are going to feel temporary stress that ignites your ability to respond and get yourself to safety.
Long-term or chronic stress is unnatural and unhealthy. When the body cannot complete the stress cycle of stress-express-decompress (cycle wordsmithed by me), the cortisol never leaves the body and wrecks havoc on the whole system like a silent fire.
Is it even possible to eliminate stress?
Yes. Our minds and bodies are amazing. They are always trying to return to homeostasis and equilibrium. One of the most important things we can do as humans living in the 21st century is to develop and practice stress-management and reduction techniques that work for us. When we have a toolkit that we can pull from in times of immense stress, we are able to find harmony much more easily and process our stress in healthy ways.
In your opinion, is this something that we should be raising more awareness about, or is it a relatively small issue? Please explain what you mean.
I think it’s one of the most important issues that we face today. Dysregulated humans equals dysregulated societies. When consistently operating from dysregulation, we are unable to see clearly. We are constantly reacting instead of calmly responding. Decisions made from reactivity will always breed more stress and imbalance. If individuals and, in turn, communities can return to balance, we will find that we are able to solve problems and heal the world much more effectively and peacefully.
Let’s talk about stress at work. Numerous studies show that job stress is the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades. For you personally, if you are feeling that overall, work is going well, do you feel calm and peaceful, or is there always an underlying feeling of stress? Can you explain what you mean?
I really have to keep stress in check for myself. When running and building a business, there is a general underlying sense that more could/should be done. There is no shortage of ways to work and work and work. I have fallen into this trap many times. What has been transformative for me is keeping a post-it on my desk of my top 3 values for my work. One of them being balance. If I start to feel myself overworking, I look at my list of priorities and omit the ones that do not uphold my top values. It’s amazing how, when we are really clear about why we are doing something, we can say ‘no’ to so much more in service of saying ‘yes’ to what matters.
Okay, fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 stress management strategies that busy leaders can use to become “Stress-Proof” at Work?” Please share a story or example for each.
- Clearly define your ‘why’. When you know why you are working on what you’re working on and why it matters to you, it’s much easier to make decisions that support momentum and progress towards that ‘why’. If you’re just doing something because someone asked you to or you feel like you should, the work will feel lifeless and stressful. When you are connected to what you’re doing, the work will fill you up and give you more and more energy to continue. Defining your ‘why’ might take some additional time at the beginning but it will serve you forever and allow you to perform work that you’re truly proud of.
- Schedule in down time. When you’re busy and stressed, the last thing on your mind is rest. However, 5 minutes of quiet meditation, a 10 minute walk around the block at lunch, a 20-minute nap, 3 minutes of journaling or sketching will actually create more space in your tank. This time ‘off’ will give you time back. It’s important to schedule this into your day first thing before the wants and needs of everyone else begin to crowd in.
- Shake it off. Our bodies hold a lot of energy and experience. When that energy courses through our veins without being released, it becomes a snowball of anxiety and agitation. Standing up and shaking your whole body or even just sitting at your desk and shaking out your arms and hands will help to release some of the pent up energy and afford you deeper focus.
- Un-Distract. When you are working on a high-value priority item, turn off all notifications and, if you can, set your phone inside a drawer or out of the room. Set a timer for however long you can/are able to sit and focus in one go (for me it’s 45 minute increments), and give yourself the gift of full attention. You’ll be amazed at how much more quickly you’re able to ship the work and how much more enjoyable a process it will be.
- Make your workspace a joyful place to be. My Dad always used to say, ‘the state of your bed is the state of your head’. Of course, he said this to instill good bed-making habits in me, however I’ve found it to be true in just about every other space we frequently occupy. When your desk is a disaster, you’re starting off at a loss. When your office feels lifeless and sad, so will your work. Keeping your workspace clean and inviting and including a few things that bring you joy will carry over into everything you create there. Some joyful ideas are: meaningful quotes or images, scented-items that calm and invigorate you (scented candles, aromatherapy rollers, fresh flowers, hot tea), your top values, favorite pens, mementos, thank you notes from clients.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?
- On Being with Krista Tippet (Podcast)
- The Enzo meditation app
- Dog Songs by Mary Oliver (Book)
- The Exquisite Risk by Mark Nepo (Book)
- ‘Totally Stress Free’ playlist on Spotify
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It would align with what I am working on now: Reconnecting people to their creativity and making it a daily practice that infuses their lives with joy, resilience, and curiosity.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.