At crucial milestones such as motherhood or a child’s board exams, working women face immense stress and the pressure to quit work. How have successful women managed such stress?
While a certain amount of stress is inevitable in our daily lives, some occasions or events in life challenge us to the utmost. For many women, this is when managing both work and life outside work seems impossible. That’s why it’s worth learning how to cope from the experiences of others.
Like all things in life, not all stress is created equal. For instance, milestones like motherhood, or a long period dealing with the illness of a loved one, or even a decision to separate from a partner, can inflict unusual amounts of stress on people.
If you have decided that quitting is not an option, and that you are committed to succeed at both ends, then you have to take the dragon called stress head on, and not give up the fight till you slay the beast. While there is no rulebook, there are examples of those who have made it work.
In conversation with successful women in the corporate sector spanning the age group of 32 to 55, we came across some amazing stories of women who successfully managed stress and could also focus on their health and mental well-being.
Making some trade-offs in the short term
Motherhood came with its own challenges for Jyoti Mathur,* senior communications manager with a leading FMCG company. She had seen many women at work bringing their kids along and leaving them at the day care centre attached to their workplace. However, when her baby was three months old, she was diagnosed with lactose intolerance and the next one year would test her to her limits.
She recalls, “That one year was very challenging. Siya had major digestion issues and I could not leave her with anyone at that time.” Her ability to cope came in the form of her reporting manager who gave her with a "work from home" option until her baby’s health improved. The feeling that she was considered an asset to the organization brought about an amazing amount of positive engagement and Jyoti ensured that she gave her 100 percent to work even from home.
Soon after, she joined back work full time with CCTV cameras at home and school to monitor her baby when others were looking after her. Sometimes it is alright to reach out for help and accept the proposition that your work load can be shared. Jyoti could not be a part of all strategic decisions for the next one year, but she realized that independent work suited her current life stage more than collaborative work. The temporary trade-offs she made helped her continue working as an asset to the organization.
Disconnecting the person and the job is important
Nayana Thakur,* Senior VP at a bank in Mumbai talks about her make or break moment when she thought her health and career were both falling apart. Years of neglect had led to many allergy breakouts, low blood pressure and constant fatigue. She says, “I had never thought this could happen to me. At one point I thought about quitting.” However, she found her stress buster in the Vipassana meditation technique. She talks of how spending time in meditation and introspection helped her to understand her own pressure points and cope better.
“Not just the stress aspect, my overall attitude towards life changed," she says. Nayana realized that much of her stress was self-inflicted; rather than the work itself, her focus on others’ behavior was hampering her career. Meditation helped Nayana disconnect this external focus and zoom in on relevant and important work.
Reshaping your career to suit your "new" aspirations
Advita Gupta who has worked as an airhostess and is today an Airport Manager, shares her story. She says, “My kids are a year apart and when they were young, it was almost impossible for me to manage them with only my husband’s support. This is when I decided to shift to a ground job.”
Advita says she was actively discouraged from doing this, but decided that she needed to make the right choices to continue working while focusing on her children. In her words, “No job is menial. It is just the way you look at it. I made a flourishing career out of my ground job and am now an Airport Manager. Rather than mentally stressing yourself out, find ways to relieve your stress even if these do not conform to the norms.”
Reshaping your career to suit your "new" aspirations brought about by important milestones in your life is a better option than discontinuing your career.
Stress is inevitable, but we can choose to actively manage it with thoughtful decisions. And once we make a firm choice, we know that nothing can stop us from attaining our goals!
*Names changed for privacy