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5 Main Strategies for Zapping Stress in the Shop

They're straight from your fellow sign pros.

FOR OUR JUNE feature article, “Stress Busters,” we asked the Signs of the Times Brain Squad to share their thoughts on managing anxiety, and scores of them offered some terrific — and quite varied — advice.

Amid our research, we asked the Squad these two questions:

  • What advice do you have for reducing stress and developing healthier habits among sign employees?
  • What coping strategy works best for you when it comes to calming your nerves and why?

Many of their responses appear among the 20 tips included in the article, but we felt many were so valuable that we’ve compiled them into these five additional topics.

1. Keep Things in Perspective

  • Just put things into perspective. Things can always be worse. — Joe G., Portland, OR
  • The one thing to always remember is, while we understand the urgency in getting the project done on time, no one ever died because they didn’t get their sign. So take a moment and a couple of deep breaths and get back to working on it. — Heather J., Oklahoma City, OK
  • Remind yourself: They are only signs. Also, less is more, and more than your client can handle. — Jan M., Chicago
  • Like everything else in life, perspective is key. When I was going through a divorce many years ago, a dear friend wrote the word “Perspective” on my man cave wall. I saw that message every day and to this day, I keep an index card on the bulletin board next to my computer monitor with the word “Perspective” written out and refer to it at least once a week. — Ian M., Bristol, RI
  • We have a running joke around here that seems to relax us when we’re stressed: “Saving lives, one sign at a time.” It’s a reminder that at the end of the day, it’s just a sign. — Anonymous

2. Go Right at the Problem

  • I deal with problems right away; I may tend to make my voice be heard a li’l louder. — Cody M., Houma, LA
  • Address situations ASAP. Addressing does not necessarily mean solving; sometimes it just means to start gathering information. — Harold P., San Juan, PR
  • In the heat of the moment what helps me most is taking the challenge head on. Once I know I have done everything I can to confront the problem, getting the right people involved and reporting the information to the client, I begin to calm down. — Tom D., Tewksbury, MA

3. Plan, Train and/or Delegate

  • Plan and schedule. — Herbie N., Mason, OH
  • Better planning seems to help. — Peter P., Swanzey, NH
  • Properly train people, supply people with sufficient tools — and survey applicable projects, allow most everyone to have input as to our offerings, techniques and schedule. I believe this is the best way to empower people and be inclusive. — Tim W., Frederick, MD
  • Teach yourself and your managers how to delegate work. Many hands make light work. I have found that much of my stress has been self-imposed by my failure to take advantage of the help that is available within the organization. It is a game changer when the leader stops doing the team’s work and works ON the business (not IN the business). — Nicole B., Phoenix

4. Look Out for Your Employees, Too

  • Set the standard and live by the standard. Provide a good plan per project and realistic timeframes. Encourage good behavior and hold accountable for bad behavior. Ask questions and listen to the employees. Provide a positive work environment. — Stephen S., Charlotte, NC
  • Group healthy lunches. Flexible paid-time-off. Work very few (if any) weekends or overtime. — RS B., San Diego
  • Don’t make employees feel guilty for leaving at 5 p.m. We all want to see that our employees care and are dedicated, but unless otherwise discussed, leaving at 5 p.m. contributes to a work-life balance, which is important to maintain in order to prevent burnout. — Mallory L., Brighton, CO

5. Use Humor or Alternative Approaches

  • I’ve always dealt with stress through humor. As stated in a previous article, humor plays a big role in breaking tensions at the office and rallying the troops to keep going. — Sean H., Clinton Twp., MI
  • Our jobs are stressful but we have a lot of fun. We make sure music is playing, we have a dog-friendly shop and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. — Dominic T., Cleveland, OH
  • Having a hobby or sport that gets your mind fully engaged helps you to forget about the stresses that work might bring. — Rick R., Sanford, FL
  • We all have to-do lists. There are things that get done and taken off the list and things that don’t. The ones that don’t tend to cause you stress. The problem won’t go away by itself. Put these items on a stress list. Deal with one item from the stress list each week. — John M., Branford, CT
  • Basically, the less you respond to negativity, the more peaceful your life becomes. — Matt B., Brasel, ND
  • Stay focused on the matters that you can directly influence/control. — Vince C., Greensboro, NC
  • Chill out and have a beer or two. — Anonymous
  • Breathe, meditate, exercise, MENTAL HEALTH DAYS. No booze. — Anonymous
  • Taco Tuesday. — Tish S., Los Alamitos, CA
  • Sell and retire. — William D., Winter Haven, FL
  • Try taking a sleep aid as well. It’s the only way I can sleep and turn my brain off. — Kevin M., Portland, OR
  • It’s easier to deal with a complex job if you just concentrate on one small step at a time. Go to bed and deal with it in the morning when you have had a good night’s sleep and are well rested. Keep in mind that it is just a f#$@!&G sign! — Gary J., Basking Ridge, NJ

Final Thoughts

  • I have not found a specific strategy that “does the trick.” I am excited to see the feedback and recommendations from others on this. The most helpful things for me are meditating and stretching. — Jonathan E., Statesville, NC
  • I have no advice or I’d be doing it myself. — Carl H., Cincinnati

To contribute to articles such as “Stress Busters” and other magazine or online content, join the Brain Squad at

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a signage and graphics company in the US or Canada, you’re invited to join the Signs of the Times Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute survey each month, you will receive access to some of the industry’s freshest data on sales — including your fellow members’ comments on what’s selling and what isn’t — and can make your voice heard on key issues affecting the sign industry. Sound good? Sign up here.


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