How to Handle the Stress of UX Work Better


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Working as a UX designer can be incredibly stressful. Our work is constantly subject to intense scrutiny and debate from clients and colleagues. If we’re consultants, we have the added pressure of constantly proving our worth to clients. Even the fast pace and ill-defined nature of the field itself can lead to stress: we can suffer from impostor syndrome and general insecurity about where we fit in our own profession.

This presentation describes the human stress response, describes why stress is bad for UXers in particular, and provides coping strategies for those dealing with chronic stress.

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How to Handle the Stress of UX Work Better

  1. 1. How to Handle the Stress of UX Work Better Meredith Noble (@meredi) Director of Interaction Design CATALYSTGROUP April 28, 2014
  2. 2. Hello. I’m Meredith. I work at CATALYSTGROUP, a UX research & design firm in NYC. I’ve been a UX consultant for 9 years. My work sometimes stresses me out. (Okay, often stresses me out.) Introductions @meredi 2
  3. 3. My Stress Credentials Introductions My stress claim to fame: I got a duodenal ulcer at age 13. @meredi 3
  4. 4. My Stress Credentials I’m a sensitive, conscientious, people-pleasing, perfectionistic emotion-squelcher… …who chose a role with intense deadlines and external judgment! I hit a breaking point. Something needed to change. Introductions @meredi 4
  5. 5. My Stress Credentials Introductions I started exploring the mind-body connection and the effects thoughts and emotions can have on our bodies. @meredi 5
  6. 6. Talk Outline Introductions •  What is stress? Why is it a problem? •  Why is stress a problem for UXers? •  Exercise: How stressed out are we? •  Exercise: What stresses us? •  Discussion: What are our top 3 stressors and how can we cope? •  Other ways to combat stress •  Resources & next steps @meredi 6
  7. 7. What is stress? •  Fear system constantly scanning the environment •  Activates hormone craziness! Background @meredi 7
  8. 8. What is stress? •  Move from ‘rest and digest’ into ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ – Energy mobilized to send to muscles – Heart rate and blood pressure increase – Non-essential activities stop or slow: – Digestion – Immunity – Growth & tissue repair – Etc. Background @meredi 8
  9. 9. What is stress? •  Another response to stress: tend and befriend •  Unclear whether this is just a female reaction or male too Background @meredi 9
  10. 10. Why is stress a problem? •  Lions aren’t a big problem in 2014 •  Most of our stress is: •  Psychological •  Ongoing •  Anticipatory •  Our bodies are sustaining long-term damage! Implications @meredi 10
  11. 11. Why is stress a problem? •  Chronic stress can lead to: – Heart disease – Depression and anxiety – Increased illness – Ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome – Diabetes, metabolic syndrome – Pain disorders Implications @meredi 11
  12. 12. Why Stress is Bad for UXers •  Hinders creativity •  Creates tunnel vision •  Reduces empathy in men •  Hinders memory •  Reduces our ability to learn and store memories Implications @meredi 12
  13. 13. How Stressed Are We? This week, are you: •  Not at all stressed •  Somewhat stressed •  Moderately stressed •  Very stressed •  Extremely stressed Exercise @meredi 13
  14. 14. What Stresses Us? •  Theme ideas: – Impressing Others – Interpersonal Challenges – Technology – Keeping Up With the UX Joneses – 21st Century Work Life – Too Little Time – The Design Process – The Research Process Exercise @meredi 14
  15. 15. Stressor 1 •  How can we better cope? Exercise @meredi 15
  16. 16. Stressor 2 •  How can we better cope? Exercise @meredi 16
  17. 17. Stressor 3 •  How can we better cope? Exercise @meredi 17
  18. 18. Ways to Combat Stress 1. Prevent stressful situations from occurring Coping @meredi 18
  19. 19. Ways to Combat Stress 2. Change the way you think during stressful situations Coping @meredi 19
  20. 20. Ways to Combat Stress 3.  Practice self-compassion Coping @meredi 20
  21. 21. Ways to Combat Stress 4.  Use a relaxation technique to return to ‘rest and digest’ – 3 deep breaths, 9 times – Exercise – Open Focus Coping @meredi 21
  22. 22. Ways to Combat Stress •  Tune into your emotions – How am I feeling right now? – Where am I feeling tension right now? – Let yourself feel it Coping With Stress @meredi 22
  23. 23. Resources The Open Focus Brain Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins @meredi 23 Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers Robert M. Sapolsky
  24. 24. Resources What is The Single Most Important Thing You Can Do To Manage Stress? Dr. Mike Evans @meredi 24 Mind Body Toolbox Audio Course Abigail Steidley
  25. 25. Resources Self-Compassion Kristin Neff @meredi 25
  26. 26. Next Steps 1.  Consider running a stress workshop at work –  With colleagues, list your stressors –  Identify stressors that you have control over –  Brainstorm ways to address them 2.  Read the resources to learn more 3.  Talk about it with others –  Tend and befriend :) @meredi 26
  27. 27. Thank you :) Meredith Noble @meredi CATALYSTGROUP