Fashion retail is much harder than it looks. It's not for the faint hearted and it's not for people who don't want to think for themselves, act quick on their feet and be totally aligned to what we're trying to achieve as a team.
This means our team can find themselves run off their feet at times, being asked to make decisions on behalf of our business and sometimes people aren’t very nice to them, for whatever reason of their own. These interactions can be very hurtful and stressful for our staff. Our staff are kind, empathetic women. Which means those interactions can take their toll on them.
We recently asked our staff to reflect on how they manage these multiple stressors in a busy, fast-paced industry and make sure they're taking care of themselves for them, but also so they're still capable of providing the incredible, personal service we are known for. And here are our top tips for managing stress and anxiety in the workplace.
1. Know yourself and your triggers
Work is not the only thing you have going on in life. There can be all sorts of things going on at any given time so it's important to take time to know and understand yourself. Ask yourself what you're feeling, why you're feeling it and slowly piece together data on what your triggers can be.
At exam time, are you more sensitive to pressure? When you've had a fight with a loved one, are you more emotional and can be more sensitive to the way people interact with you?
Do you react strongly to people being unkind or rude? Do you have a strong sense of right and wrong or a strong sense of social justice that is easy to offend?
What is your beliefs and values set? What do you react strongly to? Those things are your triggers and you need to be mindful of them because most people won't mean to offend them. They just have a different values set to you.
It's knowing and being aware of your intrinsic values-driven triggers, as well as your situational triggers (like when you are likely to be under more pressure) that give you the best chance to manage stress and anxiety when it is likely to arise.
2. Be proactive
Part of being self-aware is knowing your triggers but it's also about knowing how you're feeling at the time, and how to manage it proactively. Prevention is always better than cure!
We ask our staff to look after themselves, being self-aware and planning for their mental health! It was exam time recently which we know is a lot of additional pressure for our uni girls compared with their normal day to day lives. I asked my staff to take care of themselves, stay aware of their stress levels and emotions and put plans in place to manage them. I made sure they were aware they could have any time off they needed to manage the way they were feeling about the pressures in their lives. One of our girls took an extra weekend off to get away to the country and spend time with people she loves, among nature, recharging and letting go of some of those pressures that had been building for weeks. She came back to work, the highly capable young lady we love, smashing everything she had to deal with at work that week and being her usual superstar self. And she did that for herself, for the benefit of her and her loved ones, for her uni work, and for the benefit of her customers, teammates and our business in general. And this is something we encourage at Miko + Mollie and are so, so proud of in our people!
3. Use tools that work for you
Another part of being self-aware is knowing what tools work for you. We asked our girls what cool little mental health tools they use to manage their stress and anxiety when they can feel it escalating.
Courtney uses mindfulness meditation and essential oils to keep her mental health in check, in a regular and ongoing way, as well as taking a few moments out of her busy schedule to calm her body down. When you're go, go, go all the time, anxiety and stress can build in your body and it's important to take regular moments to let this go - a hot bath, a few moments laying in the sun without your phone or anything to read, sitting on the beach and watching a sunset just because you can. These moments can help manage rising stress and anxiety. But when she can feel her anxiety rising and she's unable to take time out to do something for her, she uses the Box Breathing Method. This is a tool that she uses to take time out, focus on her breath and calm the physical signs of anxiety down in her body so it doesn't escalate. When you are stressed or anxious your breathing can get short and shallow. This exercise helps you slow that breathing back down and breathe from the diaphragm where we are designed to breathe from, instead of the chest which is where we tend to breathe from when we're stressed, anxious or feeling panic.
To use the technique, breathe in slowly through the nose for a count of 4, making sure you breathe deep into your diaphragm and feel the stomach rise, not the chest. Hold the breath for 4 seconds, release slowly out of the mouth for 4 seconds and then wait another 4 seconds. Do 4 cycles of this. Easy to remember! 4, 4, 4, 4 x 4! When you are very stressed or anxious, slowing down your breathing can feel like you are not getting enough breath but as your body calms down and stops using so much energy to get you anxious(!!) the breath will feel more natural so push through those first few moments of discomfort to reach a more calm, balanced feeling.
Dani takes a few moments to enjoy the things that give her pleasure in life (aside from her beautiful daughter and lovely husband, Brad) - chocolate and country music! And in real moments of stress or tension she...watches cat videos on Youtube! We love this! She gives herself a few moments to re-group and changes her mindset with something that amuses her and tugs at her heart strings.
Jess introduced sport and recreation into her life in a regular way. She joined a touch football team and finds the social interaction and regular exercise motivating and calming. Courtney also uses exercise for its mental health benefits. When under pressure she will workout for 45 minutes to release endorphins and then hit the sauna to do her breathing exercises - detoxifying her body and calming her mind at the same time! It’s also physically relaxing which assists with the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Other staff members use mindfulness apps on their phones and duck away for 3-5mins to do a quick meditation when they feel their stress or anxiety rising. This is particularly useful when experiencing social anxiety because you can duck away and re-group in a toilet for a few minutes with some meditation. The girls recommend Headspace and Insight Timer - available on the app store.
4. Remember life is full of challenges and it's a privilege to experience them
Mindset is the key to enjoying your life. Life is full of challenges. Not every day will be wonderful! But we all need to remember it is a privilege to experience the good times and the bad. And the bad experiences are the ones that teach us the most. They are the best growth experiences and we should be grateful for them and take full advantage of them in terms of learnings.
If you can see them as a growth experience it will change your entire outlook on life. Giving you pleasure where there would usually be pain! And this is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your mental health.
In addition to viewing challenges as a positive experience, viewing your mental health as a responsibility you have to yourself and others around you is important. When we protectively manage our mental health we feel better but we also interact more positively, more effectively, make less mistakes and have a positive impact on those around us. When we are stressed or anxious we can pass that on to others or react negatively in situations where we otherwise wouldn’t. So managing your mental health isn’t just something you do for you, you do it for those around you as well.
5. Implement change - personally and professionally
The Miko + Mollie team have implemented healthy habits into their personal lives, making them part of their routines. We exercise, play social sport and meditate regularly. Each day building on positive mental health and strengthening our abilities to cope with times of stress and anxiety when they happen.
We have also implemented healthy practices at work. Staff have access to leave whenever they need it to manage their mental health and are actively encouraged to take time out of their work day to do a quick meditation or breathing exercise. They are actively supported by their management in everything they do and they know they are cared for as a PERSON, not a worker. They are part of a family, not a workplace. We recruit staff who value this and take responsibility for each other’s wellbeing. At Miko + Mollie you end up with a second family and support network and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Being part of a work environment like this is empowering and encouraging. Our girls are growing up with a powerhouse of women on their side, lifting them up and encouraging them. Giving them the confidence to grow into the kind, supportive, capable women they were born to be. And that is a gift we are so grateful to be able to give each other. It is one of the reasons we do what we do every day. Having to that sort of impact on another human being’s life is such a privilege a priveilege and somethibg we derive incredi
We hope these little tips from our staff help you in times of increased stress or anxiety. Stress and anxiety are normal. Please seek help if you are struggling with these feelings on your own. Every single human being will go through times of poor mental health in their lifetime. There is no shame in it. It is part of life. So there is no shame in seeking help when you need it. It’s part of being a brave, vulnerable, honest human being. We take our hats off to those who proactively manage their mental health and who seek help when they need it! We do! And we are a better team, and better people, for it.
Lots of love
Your Miko + Mollie team xx