May 25, 2021by Lisa Philip

Humans stress. It’s a reality we simply can’t avoid. We can, however, put coping mechanisms in place to prevent its escalation into overwhelm…which is much more difficult to come back from.

Managing stress pre-pandemic presented enough challenges and now COVID has since added layers of fear, frustration, loneliness, and in some cases grief. Remember, our emotions not only control how we feel about ourselves, they also have the potential to bring out the worst in us. Adverse behaviours resulting from negative feelings gnaw at the healthy workplace culture we work hard to maintain. So how can we flip our attitudes and inspire our teams towards a positive mindset when we are surrounded by uncertainty and feel out of control??


It is healthy to ‘blow off steam,’ so allow it. When you put a lid on a boiling pot, eventually the contents will rise to the top then spill over. Holding back feelings causes a similar effect. Like boiling water, suppressed emotions will stay down only until they can no longer be contained. Then they burst out (often fiercer than before), and it won’t just involve the one feeling, it will include all that’s been piled on top since.

Now that we know that venting is an effective stress reliever, it is important to understand and take heed in the difference between venting (ok) and dumping (not ok) and act accordingly.

Venting (reduces stress)

  • Feels healthy
  • Sticks to one topic
  • Is time-limited
  • Doesn’t keep repeating
  • Avoids blaming
  • Doesn’t victimize
  • Accepts accountability
  • Is open to solutions after expression

Dumping (contributes to stress)

  • Feels toxic
  • Overwhelms with several issues
  • Repeats the same thing over again
  • Goes on and on
  • Blames others
  • Wallows in victim mode
  • Doesn’t take accountability
  • Is not open to solutions

Keep in mind that venting must take place in a ‘safe’ environment where you can feel free to share your feelings openly without judgment and with confidentiality. It’s best that the receiver is someone that you trust, who won’t interrupt you or offer solutions during the vent, as their sole purpose is to listen with empathy.

When it comes to stress management, the ‘calm’ has potential to be much more dangerous than the storm, so venting is highly encouraged. The following are additional ways to relieve stress:

  1. Redirect your focus from what you CAN’T control to things you CAN control
  2. Relax without making it ‘one more thing to do’ – indulge in ‘mini breaks’ (stretch, listen to your favourite song, take a walk around the building)
  3. Breathe with purpose – focusing on (count through) each inhale and exhale
  4. Express appreciation for something (or someone) you are grateful for
  5. Practice mindfulness – live in the moment, prevent jumping from one thought to the next or ruminating over issues
  6. Reframe – your perspective of the stressor may appear bigger than it actually is
  7.  Be proactive – organize your time efficiently to regain a sense of control
  8. Use your Support System – asking for help will not only mitigate your anxiety, it will also strengthen your relationships

Managing stress by putting these things in practice and venting when you are nearing your ‘boiling point’ will guide you toward the peaceful, positive mindset that you and your team deserve, especially now.

Lisa Philip