Career

How to handle stress from women who have been there, done that

Pressure is inescapable, but if it’s killing your will nine to five, it’s time to get a grip. We asked some wise women how they handle it.


Samantha Hayes, Newshub presenter

How do I deal with stress when I’m at work? I take a few deep breaths and listen. My most stressful moments are when something goes wrong in the studio. I typically like being in control, but I’m not the one calling the shots, so I sit tight and wait to find out what the producer and director have decided is the new plan. Just last night, our live cross at the top of the bulletin dropped out two minutes before we were live. As the floor manager called “Thirty seconds till on air!”, Mike and I waited at the desk to find out which story was our new lead and where we’d go from there. A few deep breaths and we had a solution.

Over the past decade, I’ve learned to control that feeling of rising panic and try to replace it with calming breaths. I might be freaking out on the inside, but I know a solution is never far off. It’s always good to remember if we do lose our way and make a muddle of things, well, it’s only TV. Yep, you feel silly, but thankfully no one died.


Marama Davidson, Green party co-leader


Spending each Christmas in my homeland, Hokianga, and fitting in quality time with my kids and husband helps me deal with ongoing stress. Walking my dog next to beautiful lakes, streams or moana does too and reminds me why it’s so important that I do my work, campaigning to keep our waters clean.


Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, writer & filmmaker

Mindfulness changed my life. Among other things, what I love about it is it helps you realise the power you have to respond to a situation. So if I’m stressed, which is often for an anxious person like me, I’ll accept it and figure out how to respond to it, as opposed to ignoring it. Sometimes that means taking time out to focus on something else; sometimes it means reaching out to others. Stress will always be there, so it makes sense to know how to deal with it instead of pretending it doesn’t exist.


Evelyn Jones, partner at Lane Neave

I’ve been practising law for more than 15 years. The opportunity to head the Banking & Finance practice at Lane Neave came up about two years ago, and learning to run a practice was definitely a big step up from just practising law. I find that maintaining good work-life integration and a routine helps me cope with stress.

For me, this means regular exercise, decent sleep, treats – I diarise fortnightly massages – and making time to catch up with my friends and family, who I include in my work diary and prioritise as I would work. Eating well when you’re busy can be challenging but I make an effort to. I also practice self-compassion – don’t be your worst critic.


Kanoa Lloyd, The Project presenter


Right before I’m gearing up to do a live opinion piece or big story, I am convinced it’s the worst thing ever made, wonder why I’m doing it, and want to go to bed and never come back to work ever again. But I’m lucky to work in an office where I can be honest about how I’m feeling, and people view my stress with a healthy dose of good humour. When people who care about you gently laugh at you, it’s actually a good wake-up call that you’re not a neurosurgeon and should probably calm down.

Also, colour-coded Google Calendar! I add emojis and nice images to my notifications. I use yellow for meetings with people that are quite hectic because they’re ‘bananas’; I put things I’m looking forward to in pink for ‘pretty’; blue is for stuff to do with the boss; and so on. I find it really calming to look at the rainbow and it motivates me to keep my schedule up to date.


Kelly Thompson, illustrator

I’ve never really been someone who feels stress, which may sound great, but it’s a problem, because it manifests physically, and I’ve struggled with debilitating migraines for years as a result. Thankfully, they’re now controlled, and I have a much more managed approach to keeping stress in check. One of the main things that helps me is cutting out extras. When I start to get overwhelmed, I make a list of my main priorities and cut out everything else – I don’t reply to texts or easy emails, check social media or let myself be distracted by low-priority tasks. I find that punching out the big things makes me feel more in control.

I regularly take walks at lunchtime, leaving my phone behind, and never reply to work-related texts or emails over the weekend, unless I’ve agreed to. I also try to get myself out of the stress mindset by reminding myself that I always get things done – in two weeks I won’t be stressed about this, so why stress about it at all?


Kelly McAuliffe,FQ and Miss FQ digital editor


I like a certain amount of healthy stress in my life as I find I operate best when I have lots on the go. In saying that, sometimes I do need a bit of a breather, so to unwind, I like to do yoga or go for a brisk walk before work to get my blood pumping and mind working. It sets me up really nicely for the day and makes me better able to deal with whatever’s thrown at me. The biggest thing I’ve learned in the years I’ve worked in fast-paced media environments is there’s no sense sweating the small stuff when things go wrong. Keep your focus on coming up with solutions rather than dwelling too much on the problem and you’ll find it won’t get the better of you.


Sarah Street, Mi Piaci designer & brand manager


Being a mother with a pretty demanding full-time job means everything I do is really about efficiency and balance. To relieve stress, I take magnesium religiously at night, practise breathing techniques to help me get through tougher days, meditate and go for walks as often as I can. But what helps me the most is coming home at night to the beautiful smiling face of my son. Giving him a squeeze until he giggles seems to melt the stresses of my day away. Laughter really is the best medicine.


Amanda Gillies, The AM Show presenter


A walk and a talk are my two key stress relievers. A brisk walk, usually with rock or pop blaring through my headphones, pumps up the feel-good endorphins, and chatting to my mum, best friend or partner usually puts any problem in perspective. Last year I also started a daily gratitude diary, which has proved a wonderful stress reliever – it forces me to stop and focus on, and appreciate, the good things in my life.


Amy Fraser, founder of OKREAL


My business Okreal is based in New York and I’m currently running it from New Zealand while raising a one-year-old on my own, so stress is a frequent companion. Something that has really helped me is acknowledging that stress, in various forms, will be ever-present – and surrendering to it.

Stress is really a choice on where you place your attention, and as my time is so compromised, I need to allocate my attention carefully. Assuming I’ve had enough sleep, I can usually choose what requires my attention and what will inevitably be okay. Most things will be okay with a few deep breaths and some time. Other things need pressured energy and focus – aka stress – in order to get sorted out. Maintaining perspective is useful, as are a few glasses of wine.


This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly, Issue 1, 2019.

Photos: Supplied

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