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Feb 01 2019
Unraveling Stressors: A Self-Care Reminder
Stephanie Johnson, CCE, Gritton & Associates
A career in credit management and collections can sometimes be onerous and emotionally taxing. Expectations and performance goals are often set by outside forces. Credit managers may be at odds with customers, vendors, sales team members, management or legal teams. At any given time, on any given day, the actions of others can have an effect on me and my team. I would like to say that on most days, I can shrug off the negative and hurtful things people say to me as I do my job. However, taking a constant barrage of negativity can be taxing emotionally and mentally. More times than I like to admit, I take my work attitude home with me and let my work-life affect my home-life.

Recently, I had one of THOSE kinds of day. You know that one I am talking about. Three different credit decisions had to be made so my sales team could do their job. I had to find out how to get to "yes" while still protecting our organization. Briefly, here is what happened.

Customer A was a prior customer who had a bad debt history with our organization, was ready to issue a purchase order for over $45,000. I had closed their credit line years earlier. They had been purchasing regularly in recent years using credit card and now wanted a job account and line of credit reissued for this purchase.

Customer B was also prior customer without recent experience. I had closed their old account based on inactivity. This customer had been discussed during recent monthly group meetings because of change in payment pattern and ownership.

Customer C was an out of state customer without an account who needed equipment the next day before my salesman left the country for vacation.

Alone, none of these credit decisions would have been too emotionally taxing, but it was also month end and our cable company decided it was a good day to replace fiber lines in our area, so we did not have functioning phones or internet. Ever tried to pull a credit report on your phone? Part of the problem also stemmed from a lack of communication throughout the week, which led to a crisis mode on this day.

As I was driving home, seething with anger at the outside forces that prevented me from effectively doing my job, I realized I had not practiced self-care this day. One might not think that self-care in a professional setting is an important topic of conversation; however, I believe that especially with the jobs that we as credit managers have, self-care is a vital part of a best practices daily regimen to help us avoid burnout and do our jobs more effectively. Successful professionals include their own brand of self-care into a daily work-life regardless of who we are.

I read an article in the Harvard Business Review last year about self-care that I feel is a good basis for developing one's individual self-care plan. Amy Jen Su outlined 6 Ways to Weave Self-Care Into Your Workday:
  • Cut yourself a break
  • Value time, money, and resources
  • Take a victory lap
  • Surround yourself with good people
  • Update your workspace
  • Recharge and reboot
Further, Su encouraged professionals to notice when they have slipped out of self-care modes by watching for self-neglect, self-management, self-sabotage, and self-preservation.

Self-care is going to look different for each person reading this article as self-care is personal and particular to each individual. It can take some time to find the best self-care fit for you and help your staff do the same. Self-care does not need to take away a lot of time from a workday and might not need to be practiced every day in order to be effective.

Since self-care will be different for you than it would be for me, I cannot tell you what to do to practice self-care in your life. I can,however, encourage you to define what works for you personally. Define what level of self-care you might need to employ to help you in a variety of situations in the office during work hours and outside of the office after hours or on breaks.

Self-care does not need to cost money. Here are some simple suggestions for everyday small things that can help you get started with developing your own plan of self-care during office hours:
       Take a walk
       Read a book or magazine
       Listen to Music
       Work on a handicraft
       Try mindfulness practices (mediation, yoga, etc.)
       Practice deep breathing
       Talk to someone you trust
       Leave your desk to get a drink of water

Be prepared at your desk or office with appropriate supplies. For me, that looks like a stock of herbal teas and coloring book with crayons. Your stock will likely look different. Self-care outside of office hours is vitally important as well. Again, it will look different for you than it will for me. Suggestions could include:

  • Do Exercise
  • Get 8 hours of sleep
  • Have a Manicure, pedicure, massage, etc.
  • Go to a movie
  • Talk to a professional therapist or counselor
  • Use all paid-time-off offered and earned from your employer
Additional ideas can be found online simply by typing "Self-Care ideas" into your favorite search engine. Self-care is an important step in taking care of your emotional, physical, and mental needs, making you a more effective and efficient employee to your organization.

Strong and open communication lines between the sales and credit teams can help protect the organization while still making a sale. Because, after all, the goal is to get to "yes" in every sale situation. Those lines of communication are not always solely within your control. Adding self-care to your work-life can often help alleviate the stressors that might set you off when the credit and collection job becomes anxious and overwhelming. The calmer we are during work hours, the more effectively we can facilitate the strong working relationships with our sales team resulting in more effective sales for the organization. I am confident that our customers will appreciate the impact self-care can have on our conversations with them, as well.

Admittedly in finishing up this article, I am full of self-doubt on choosing this topic. Self-care is a mental health subject that I find relevant in my work-life but I realize not everyone finds it as necessary for them personally or they could be uncomfortable with such conversations. It took years for me to know that taking time for self-care is vital to my success in my career. I am more effective and efficient on those days and weeks when I am vigilant in practicing self-care. I am more pleasant to be around at the office and find that my collection calls don't wear on my emotions as much. In terms of best practices for all professionals, finding effective self-care practices can make our work-life less onerous and emotionally taxing resulting in a more effective, happier and calmer you.

©2019 National Association of Credit Management. Reprinted with permission. Originally published in the February 2019 issue of Business Credit Magazine.