The month of April is 'Stress Awareness Month' and, as we head further into Spring, what better time to be open and honest about how we're feeling and to discuss the consequences of stress and how it affects us?
There are many key awareness dates throughout the year which seek to draw attention to mental health, and since 1992 'Stress Awareness Month' has been observed in an effort to focus on the widespread problem of stress in today's society. This year, the spotlight is on managing mental health and well-being at work.
As the title of this article states, stressed spelt backwards is desserts – and sometimes I wonder if I got my 'just desserts' when I stepped into the fashion industry, with its ever-increasing competition and shifting consumer demands.
However, despite the unrelenting pressure to keep up with current trends, not to mention the physical dangers ... yep, you can stitch through a finger when you're sewing 650-1,000 stitches per minute … plus the overwhelming expectations and the pressure I put on myself to succeed, I actually think I'm doing OK in this fun, creative career that is constantly evolving.
That doesn't mean that I don't get the heebie-jeebies when I feel something isn't going my way. Physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion (burnout syndrome) can be caused in any profession by workplace stress which has not been successfully dealt with.
Here's the thing, though – learning to focus on what you can control in your life is a sure way to become more resilient and better prepared for constant anxiety, whatever industry you are working in. You'll undoubtedly have less chance of cracking under pressure or coming up short if you identify the cause of your stress, then concentrate on dealing with it.
So stick with me here whilst we take a look together at three key lessons I’ve learned along the way, in the face of endless long working days, excessively high expectations, and the emphasis on seeking perfection ... you may just find yourselves relating to my experiences.
When life seems nonstop, the best way to perform well under duress is to be organised. I invest a few minutes each day in cleaning up my workspace and keeping any clutter at bay. My sketchbook and pencils, fashion magazines and previous successful designs are stored away at night, and even the images and files on my computer are all filed and sorted for easy access.
I also have an agenda where I list every task I have to complete each day, as well as anything else I need to remember. It helps me to stay on top of things and complete high-priority things without feeling frazzled. I'm even starting to relish the challenge of balancing multiple projects and meeting deadlines.
As excited as you might be about setting up your own brand, spreading the word takes time and patience. Marketing your collections and seeing them in boutiques or on the catwalk all seem a long way off at the beginning, and embarking on the lengthy process of finding customers is bound to be stressful. Networking is all about establishing and maintaining mutually beneficial and long-lasting professional relationships and creating fruitful connections with the right individuals in your industry. This can sometimes seem an impossible mission when you'd rather be sat in your studio creating a new design, but it’s an investment that will pay off.
Defining your product or service from the perspective of your target market is the first step in acquiring customers and, thrilling as it may sound, starting Dekaria Clothing and joining the fashion industry, was a huge and nerve-racking step. Who would be interested in my designs? What age group should I aim for? What fabrics should I use? – these were all questions I asked myself over and over again, and here's where I learned to take control of my anxiety.
Once I identified the women who were showing an interest in my designs, I could then clearly define and focus on these potential customers and seek out similar people who would like my work. And you know what? I then felt less apprehensive about setting up my fashion business.
If you feel yourself getting distressed and on edge at work, don't be afraid to ask for help and listen carefully to other people's opinions. There will always be challenges and setbacks in your occupation, whatever it may be, but remember stressed spelt backwards is desserts so let’s live life with a cherry on top!
You know you're worth it.