Handling Library Stress

By Kristin Fletcher-Spear

Someone that doesn’t work in public libraries may find the title of this column a joke. They may think, “How could working in a library be stressful? All you do all day is work at a desk and help people find books.”

And I’ll be honest: there are days when I think to myself, “There is no reason to be stressed. You don’t have someone’s life in your hands!” But the reality is every job has stress. It doesn’t matter what the levels of the stress are in comparison to another type of work. Your job is handle your stress load the best you can.

As a supervisor, I had more conversations about the stress level at work than ever before. That’s been understandable; it’s been a stressful year where I work. And every year about this time, the youth and teen staff begin feeling the stress even more. Summer is a wonderful time to be a youth or teen services librarian, but it is also stressful. As a supervisor, I encourage everyone to find ways to manage the stress that works best for them. For me, on my most stressful days, I take an hour lunch and go somewhere to sit down and eat. I play games on my phone and just veg. Other days, I’ll just pick up something and eat in my office, but when I’m stressed I know it’s important to just leave for a bit.

What if you don’t have an hour to get away and decompress? Here are some fun, easy things to try:

  • Listen to your favorite song and sing along. My son has brain breaks in his class where they dance to songs on Just Dance for Kids. Although we can’t necessarily have these brain breaks while on the desk (though wouldn’t it be fun if all the staff just started to sing and dance!), we can easily do this in our backroom areas.
  • Do some deep-breathing exercises.
  • Laugh! Watch a Youtube clip; get a joke book out and tell some to your colleagues.
  • Write it out. Journal what’s bothering you, but then take the extra step to write out what you’re grateful for. This step will remind you of great things.
  • Exercise. Take a walk around the library (inside or out). Do some stretches and squats. Getting up and moving a bit will get your blood flowing and endorphins churning.
  • Read. Reading has been shown to reduce stress better and faster than listening to music, drinking tea, and other relaxation methods. But pick something you’ll enjoy and not something that could upset you, like the news.

Stress is a part of every job. How you handle it makes all the difference!

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