Very recently I became aware of the passing of a fellow mediator colleague who left us way too soon and I recall we had many candid discussions about conflict resolution strategies and the stressors people in our line of work can be faced with while trying to assist others in conflict and the importance of effectively managing those stressors.
Rick’s passing and our discussions really made me reflect on the importance of living each day and our overall lives to the fullest and not having any regrets. Often when people are in conflict over time they too have regrets about letting the conflict go on for so long; often without resolve. They don’t think about the end game or the future because they get stuck in the past, present, and are often unwilling to be flexible to stretch their mind from steadfast positions leaving them unable to see the future or the potential light at the end of the tunnel. As a mediator I strive to assist parties to reach those options for mutual gain and to really think outside the box to consider all interests and options. I have found it helpful to have them vocalize the positive as well as adverse actions of their decision to resolve or not resolve an issue or to have it continue to more formal options of resolution outside the mediation process. Many times I have them also write everything down on paper and during a caucus we discuss those items because it helps create a clearer picture when people see it in writing and vocalize them as well.
Also, as conflict resolution practitioners/mediators no matter how much you love your job at some point you have or will feel the pressures of work-related stressors and we don’t always have any or an effective stress reduction plan in place to mitigate the challenging cases and situations we can find ourselves in. Unfortunately we don’t think about the many adverse impacts of allowing conflict to continue or even escalate. These are important areas to also help people in mediation realize. Additionally, we lose focus of ensuring to make it a point to take care of our own emotional and physical well-being and when unmanaged can become overwhelming and can become harmful to our overall well-being. There are many ways to manage work-related stress and I will share a few that have worked for me over the years for your consideration.
Prioritize & Organize: Workplace stressors can threaten and overwhelm us, but there are some practical approaches to manage these stressors like finding a way to balance work, social, family responsibilities. Try and plan some breaks into your schedule especially if you are mediating multiple cases in the same day. Ensure you don’t over-commit yourself and when possible try and avoid scheduling too many back-to-back meetings/mediations into the same day. Incorporate effective time management and prioritization skills as part of your daily routine.
Establish healthy living techniques: I have found any type of exercise greatly aides stress reduction and many friends talk about yoga, tai chi, and other breathing related exercises as methods helpful to them. Really whatever type of physical activity you can tolerate would be beneficial. Also ensuring you receive enough worthwhile sleep can help keep us focused. The other thing I found beneficial was not eating unhealthy snacks when feeling stressed or binge overeating as a stress coping mechanism.
Make time to unplug and re-group: To assist with potential negative effects of burnout and stress it is important to re-charge our batteries from time to time. This is a hard one for many of us, but we need to literally and figuratively unplug from our work world and virtual electronic world and schedule periodic leave to help mitigate stress, relax, and unwind.
Establish a healthy support system: It is important to have some trusted allies in your corner such as close family, friends, colleagues, and other resources you can use as a sounding board and speak with to ensure you don’t keep things inside to the point they build up and you explode emotionally or physically. Of course if you are dealing with stressful mediations or workplace conflicts be sure to keep your venting conversations generic to avoid breaching confidentiality, etc. I have found that talking with someone and getting things out in the open frees my mind and reduces stress. Be cognizant of your fellow co-workers and if you recognize they may be dealing with stress and conflict take a moment to reach out and talk with them and do a wellness check. Also, if your organization has some type of employee assistance program (EAP), feel free to consider that option and reach out to those resources as well. I have heard from some people that they are not comfortable reaching out to EAP resources for fear of being labeled, etc. and my personal philosophy on that is not to worry about what others think if there is a useful resource to assist with what I am dealing with I am going to utilize those services for my well-being.
I wrote this small piece as a tribute to my friend and colleague Richard, AKA “Rick” for all he shared with those he assisted in his mediation endeavors. My hope is after reading this it will serve as a reflective reminder to ensure you spend a few moments sharing positive thoughts with friends and loved ones and never let an opportunity go by to let those important to you know that you appreciate and love them. If you are in conflict give thought to find ways to talk through the conflict to reduce or resolve it and spend time doing the things you love with a mind and heart free of conflict. These strategies will allow more time to make the most of each day we are given and consider making some form of a bucket (to do) list of items you would like to achieve and accomplish during your lifetime because tomorrow is not a guarantee for any of us. Strive to create a conflict free zone in your work and home interactions.