A court reporter’s job is to take down, verbatim, every word spoken for hours at a time, which can be a pain in the neck. I have written thousands of pages the last couple of weeks, all expedited, and my neck has a constant throb. I had my masseuse work on it (using a small wooden rolling pin pushing with all of his might) and he commented, “It is all stress.” So I decided to research relieving stress and found a great article in the Harvard Business Review written by Heidi Grant Halvorson, “Nine Ways Successful People Defeat Stress.” Halvorson talks about nine scientifically-proven strategies for defeating stress.
- Have self-compassion: Be willing to look at your mistakes with kindness and understanding. Don’t get mad at yourself for a misstroke or not remembering to use a new brief. Self-compassionate people are happier, more optimistic, and successful. They learn from their mistakes and move on.
- Look at the big picture: Anything you need or want to do can be looked at in different ways. Thinking big picture about the way you work can be very energizing. If you are getting frustrated trying to fix a conflict, their, there, they’re, for example, and it is hard to focus on change during a deposition, remember why you are working on that one conflict – it is so you can write realtime, save time scoping, and pass the CMRR/CRR.
- Rely on Routines: The fewer decisions you have to make every day the less you will feel stressed. Don’t waste time on trivia. Have your steno bag always ready to go with your exhibit stickers, power cords… Suggested routine: After deposition immediately mark exhibits, clean up proper names in transcript, and send the file off to the scopist. Make your lunch in the morning/set your clothes out before going to bed for the next day.
- Take five or ten minutes to do something you find interesting: Recent research shows doesn’t just keep you going despite fatigue, it actually gives you energy. Interesting is defined as doing something that really is physically or mentally challenging (not relaxing).
- Add “where” and “when” to do your to-do list: Nearly 200 studies on everything from diet and exercise to time management have shown if you add when the task is to be done and where, there is a double/triple chance you will complete the task. To relieve stress we need to get our tasks done in a timely manner and not let it weigh on our mind.
- Use if-thens for positive thought: Decide what kind of response you will give to a situation. For example, if I have 450 expedited pages to get out this weekend, then I will relax knowing I can get out 300 out Saturday and 150 on Sunday, leaving me with most of Sunday to do what I want.
- See your work in terms of progress, not perfection: Expecting to be perfect the first time you do something is a bad plan, and comparing ourselves with other people leads to fatigue, self-doubt, and ultimately sets you up for failure. Instead do a self-comparison in terms of learning and improving, accepting you make some mistakes along the way, and you will feel less stress and more motivated.
- Think about the progress that you’ve already made: Psychologically, it is not whether we’ve reached our goal, but the rate at which we are closing the gap that determines how we feel. Take a moment and reflect on what you’ve accomplished rather than turning your attention to the challenges that are ahead.
- Know whether optimism or defensive pessimism works for you: Know your motivational style. Some people think of their jobs as an opportunity for achievement and accomplishment. Psychologists call this promotion focus. People who are comfortable with prevention focus place the emphasis on fulfilling responsibilities. People can work very differently to obtain the same goal. It is suggested you identify your focus type, and embrace either the sunny outlook or healthy skepticism to reduce stress.
One of the reasons I chose Halvorson’s article is because these nine steps are not what I typically see written about controlling stress. No. 9 is particularly thought-provoking and “interesting.” I am more energized now and my neck is feeling better than it did when I started writing this blog for my fellow court reporters. Thank you.