May 15, 2023

What’s Working: Mastering Stress – The Key to Work-Life Balance


Episode Highlights

Stress Makes You Stupid


Stress Anonymous


Boundary Setting


Do People Push Back on Boundaries?


Controlling the Controllables


Weekly Planning Routine


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In this episode of What’s Working, Nicole talks with Lindsey Stroop-Elias, Director of TA at Enlivant. Lindsey shares her realization of how stress was impacting her wellbeing and her journey to set boundaries to create balance.

Episode Transcript

Hello everyone and welcome to What’s Working. My name is Nicole Magats and I’m a lead recruiter at Hirewell. What’s Working is a show where we talk to leaders in their field about the habits, tools, philosophies, and things that are working for them.

So I’m so excited to introduce today’s guest, Lindsey Stroop-Elias. Lindsey is a director of Talent acquisition at Enlivant, which is an assisted living home with a national footprint. More personally though, Lindsey is my former boss.

So during the pandemic 2020, 2021, I was furloughed from another job and was in the mindset of. I just need a job somewhere. And I got so lucky and landed at Enlivant with Lindsey, and I’m just so honored to have her on the show again. I mean, one thing that really stood out to me, Lindsey, about you is, I mean, A.) You’re just like, you bring your whole self to work and you just are someone that I’ve learned so much from and I already know what you’re going to share today, so I’m just, I’m so excited to be able to learn and have everyone else kind of hear your thing.

Oh my gosh. Well, first of all, thank you so much. That’s very, very kind of you and it was an absolute pleasure to have you at Enlivant. We miss you, but very happy for you and all of your success so I’m so excited to talk to you today.

Me too. Well, Lindsey, I know you have some really exciting stuff today and I’m actually, I get lucky because I get a sneak peek on what’s working for everyone. But why don’t you start by telling us what’s working for you. Yeah. So when you asked this question, it was pretty easy. I had just come off of a pretty rough year, 2022 was, you know, I think it was an interesting time, right?

We were coming out of the pandemic, but still trying to get used to coming back into life. And so I had a lot going on. And the thing that I realized in 2022 for myself and I think it really, you know, a lot of people can relate to this is just managing stress. And somebody said something to me, I was part of this really wonderful women’s group at Enlivant it was called- I work at Enlivant and I’m a director of talent there. So at Enlivant we had this class that was for about 30 women, leaders, and it was called Women Belong in Enlivant. And we read this great book, I actually have it with me, it’s called The Women’s Guides to Power, Presence, and Protection.

And it’s about gaining the credit, respect, and responsibility that you deserve. And so we did this class and something that stood out to me that somebody said was stress makes you stupid. And I don’t know why, but that resonated so strongly with me and it kind of sent me down this path of really evaluating how I let stress show up in my life.

And so for me in the past year, I would say, it’s all about what is my stress level like and saying, remember, stress makes you stupid. Like don’t go down this road. So for me, stress makes you stupid kind of changed everything. I love that. I think that’s such a timely phrase, and I think because you pointed out, a lot of people, especially in this post pandemic world, are rethinking what their boundaries are.

And I think even just figuring out how to set boundaries, and I’d be curious for you that, I mean, this is a real issue with women too, right? Yep. How did you implement this? Was it easy? No, I don’t think it’s ever easy. You know, I think the first step is jokingly admitting that you have a problem with the stress.

Right? I love it. You know, you’ve got to admit to yourself how the stress impacts your life. For myself, my breaking point was, I was kind of using my wife as a sounding board over and over and over, and I saw this little light behind her eyes like kind of dim a little when she heard me start talking about it again, and she’s so supportive.

But that was the moment that I realized like I had let stress take over my life. And so what it took for me was just saying, okay, what are the things that are stressing me out? What are the things that are sending me down this path? And how can I control them? Because I think a lot of times we forget that we can’t stress about the things that we can’t control.

We can only worry, and I don’t want to say even worry, maybe so much as I want to say, we can only take a look at and start to change the things that we can actually have an impact on and that we can actually change. So for me, it was just deciphering what those issues were and then diving in, you know, so it wasn’t easy.

I will say that to get started, it was not easy. Did you feel like you had a handle on what your priorities were? Or did you feel like you had to even do some soul searching on that front? I definitely had to do some soul searching, you know as a, I’m a married woman, but I don’t have children.

And for a while I made my career, I don’t want to say it was my personality, but it was a focus, right? Like, I don’t think it’s good for anybody to make their career, their personality, you know, just from a health standpoint. But for me, I was really dialed in and that’s all I was really thinking about.

So I did need to step back and say, “Hey, what is actually mattering here?” And I came to this realization that I had to have a work-life balance. I had to understand that like I could step away from my desk and that was making me better at work. So, yeah it was a challenge for sure. Once you like kind of identified those, the buckets, right, we’ll call them, or the kind of these areas that were important, like how did you go around shifting everything around them?

Yeah, great question. So once I identified what the issues were for me, it was really important for me to honestly get to work and start taking care of them. So the buckets that I identified were, I wasn’t controlling my calendar very well. By that I mean, I wasn’t blocking off time for healthy selfishness. I wasn’t sticking to the calendar that I had set up for myself for the day, things like that.

And then, creating boundaries. Just understanding that like I needed to say no sometimes, or I couldn’t always be there for people in the moment. So, the first thing around controlling my calendar was every single morning I have this little like notepad that’s kind of like a reflection notepad. And really starting the day out was saying, okay, I’m going to write down everything I need to do today.

I’m going to attack those things first. And I’m going to hold myself accountable to it, because I love checking things off of a list. So really, you know, when I realized when I got to the director level was my job wasn’t really that much of a check off the list kind of deal. It was more like I checking in on people, how are you doing? Making sure that we were thinking strategically, we were seeing around corners. And those things still need checklists. You just don’t really think of it like that sometimes.

So it really helped starting my morning off by making sure that I wasn’t just like looking at my Outlook calendar that I was actually writing down the things that I was going to do. And then actively checking them off the list, which was helpful.

So for me that was a really big thing just to like, make sure I was controlling my calendar. Also, not letting people put last minute meetings on my calendar. I used to do that a lot, and that kind of goes into the second box, which was the boundary setting. I really had to just start saying, I’m not available right now, but I can talk to you tomorrow at this time.

Or to a project, you know, I just don’t have the time to commit to that at this moment, or also not voluntarily giving my team projects too, you know, like not raising my hand and volunteering my team as well. So it was just really around making sure that I remembered if I didn’t commit to these things, I was going to go right back to that place where stress was overtaking my life. Because I had identified those as the biggest issues.

Absolutely. I’m curious. So I know you had, you had mentioned, especially around boundary setting, right? Being more mindful about what you’re saying yes to. How did it go when you were communicating these boundaries to other people? That’s a big adjustment for folks to go from, you know, you being readily available to not, and how did you communicate that and did you get any pushback?

Yeah, so I didn’t get a lot of pushback, which, you know, just goes to show that we’re scared of pushback when it actually is probably not going to happen. When you own your space and you set those expectations and you set those boundaries people typically, for the most part, are pretty good about it.

You know, of course there’s some-

it’s a little bit of a relationship changing moment because, you know, you have set the tone of this relationship with whoever you’re speaking with or whoever you’re talking to about the boundaries and you haven’t had them. So now you’re kind of changing that up a little bit.

But I think what I found was really helpful was saying this out loud to my colleagues, and saying, “Hey, look, like if I do this, this is the direct result of it, and it sends me down a path that I can’t really get out of, and it doesn’t make me effective for you when you need me. It actually makes it worse.”

And so I just really think that communicating that to people, being vulnerable, is just, it’s so important. We did this great exercise just recently with our entire HR and leader team, where we all went through our performance management plans and there’s a section on them where we talk about, we call it the what and the how.

So you’ve got the what, which is the section of like what you’re doing on a daily basis, but then there’s the how, of how you’re doing it. And this kind of plays into that. And part of my how was to start creating boundaries, and stop letting people control my calendar, so saying it out loud to everybody and so they know, it kind of helps them hold me accountable too, right?

If they see me shooting off a quick message like, “Hey, I can absolutely talk. They’ll say, Hey, no, it’s not a big deal. Like we can connect because they know what’s going to happen to me. And we all care about each other. So I think that was really helpful. Yeah, I haven’t had as much issue with it as I thought I was going to, which was also a valuable lesson to me. I think that’s neat. To your point of, there’s always going to be a lot less pushback than you think, especially when it comes to ourselves, but I think it’s neat too how instrumental other people were in helping kind of set the infrastructure for you to be successful with that.

I’m curious, did people outside of Enlivant and start to pick up this mentality or philosophy too? Yeah, no, great question. I mean, I say it constantly, so I can’t imagine that it hasn’t stuck in some tiny, tiny way with somebody in my life at least. But I definitely, I had a really good group of friends and family and I’ve had to work on boundary setting in a lot of different areas of my life.

But work was really the place because I had made it so, like, I made it so important in my life was really where I needed to do it. And I was lucky because I had a boss, and team, and teammates and employees who completely wrapped their arms around it and understood, you know, so, I think that my team, I’ve watched them, you know, when I start changing the way that I’m feeling about things, I think it just happens to have an impact on my team, right? Like it’s got to. If I’ve got a way that I’m going about myself and the way that I’m looking at the world and looking at work, it’s going to start having an effect on people.

And when you realize that you just really can’t control certain things. It’s really easy to like let those things go. But when you think you can, that’s when you start making really bad decisions. I’ve never made more terrible decisions than I have when I am under the stress mode.

For example, like when people say I’m stressed about my job, some people will just quit and go get a new job, but they’ve still taken the same behaviors with them to the next place. Yeah. So, addressing your behaviors that are making you stressed, I think is the key. Because then you can, okay, now I’ve addressed the behaviors and now that I’ve done that, do I still hate my job?

No. It’s the way I’m acting. Or, yes, and then you can make the decision. That’s just an example. But I think that’s so important to think about because people often will blame something bigger, like their job or like their partner or like their family, when really there’s a lot of behavioral things you can address first and then decide what the culprit is.

Yeah. I think there’s like an interesting thought between like, around like ownership there too, right? Like at what point do you take ownership for your stress and your responsibilities versus let everything be external. It’s not my fault I didn’t get to this. Right, exactly. Exactly. So yeah, I just, I don’t know, like I said that to somebody who here, I can’t remember, and they were like, oh my gosh. Yeah. They’re like, I feel so like liberated knowing that like anywhere I go, if I don’t fix this thing, I’ll always feel this way or I’ll always do this thing.

If you are not creating boundaries at work, that’s because you are not doing it. Like, it’s not like work is going to be there all the time. They’re, if they think that is okay for you, then they’re just going to keep down that road, you know? It’s funny that you say that it’s, especially in recruiting, I feel like when I talk to candidates, I have to tell them and coach them through that of like, “Hey, we got to be intentional and we have to rethink, you know, your whole past job, career and job history.”

Because if we’ve done it the same way, you’ve always done it. Correct. Have you been happy in these past roles? Correct. A hundred percent. You’ve got to. I like that what you said, like take the ownership piece of it. So yeah, that’s probably the only thing that like, I think is like the important first step.

So yeah, I don’t know if it’s made, to go back to your question, I don’t think, I don’t know if it’s made too much of an impact, like outside of my world, but it was all the difference, inside of the work world, if that makes sense. Yeah. And I think even too, I think it brings up an interesting point of almost leading by example, which I think, obviously I’m going to brag up for you, which I think you’re really good at. I think you’re very good at being vulnerable and leading in a certain way and people following suits. So I wouldn’t be surprised if more people are tracking on it than you would recognize. Yeah. Well, I hope so. It’s been instrumental to my life.

Well I think that actually that brings up a side question. I feel like you have to have a pretty strong planning ritual in place. I mean A.) In order to set these boundaries, but B.) To create the guardrail so you’re not planning to a fault.

What does your planning process look like? Like a weekly planning. So the way that I kind of approach weekly planning is I had this calendar for years that I loved where you would write out the day to day, but then you would also write out the week to week and I think you have to start with what are the things that I need to-

What’s the priority level here, right? Is it projects? Is it checking in on your people? How are your people doing? How are they feeling about anything that’s going on right now at work, personal, whatever it might be. And then, prioritizing that first, so they feel like they can do their jobs to the best of their ability.

So, you know, for me it’s a lot of just making sure I’m prepared for my one-on-ones, with my direct reports. I like to control my calendar. In this sense. I like to put little reminders for myself. Most of my calendar is not taken up with meetings. It’s taken up with set aside time to do this thing or set, you know, you’re going to spend this hour writing an email or we have these little like gratitude cards here at Enlivant. You’re going to write a gratitude card for four people. Or you’re going to get on LinkedIn and post something and brag about your team, or you’re going to like something that your team has done or something like that.

People like to think those things just happen naturally and they don’t. Yeah. Like you’ve got to plan around them. So, you know, for me it’s just looking at the week and like looking at what my major accomplishments need to be and then how do I go about getting those done? How do I go about attacking those? And it can be little, it can be big. And you might finish it that week or you might not finish it that week. You know, just as long as you’re making progress, so.

Well, Lindsey, thank you so much for joining me. Oh, it was such a pleasure. And it’s so good to see you. And, I’ve just, I’ve loved talking about how this thing can really be transformational for people. So I hope it helps somebody. Me too. I mean, I think even just talking, you’ve helped me, so I’ll check that off.

Well, thanks. Well, everyone thank you so much for joining What’s Working, a show done in conjunction with Hirewell my name is Nicole Magats. I’m a lead recruiter at Hirewell, and thank you so much. Please join us next time.



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