Internships can be stressful. Especially if this is your first internship and your first time in a professional environment. Heck, the unknown of what to expect on day one is enough to cause major anxiety for a week if you let it. You’ll feel the need to impress all of the new people you meet, take on multiple projects to learn as much as you can, and (if you’re anything like me) the crazy pressure to exceed the perfectionist expectations you set for yourself. So how do you go about managing internship stress?
As a fun aside, a good friend and I used to have a way of calming each other down when things got stressful at work. CTFO. Stands for Chill The F*ck Out. We would say it to each other in passing or leave sticky notes on each other’s desks. It was effective to a certain extent. It forced us to pause, laugh a little and take a deep breath before tackling the next task or project.
But beyond my quirky and candid acronyms there are other ways I recommend managing internship stress so that you stay on your game and get the most out of your internship experience.
Come to your internship prepared
Your days are going to be different than they are in college. In college, your time is more your own. If you didn’t prep for your afternoon exam, you can still cram in some study time after your morning class. At your internship, your time is not your own. It will be dictated by the projects you’re assigned and the last minute meetings that you’re asked to attend. So if you don’t prepare in advance, there is no final opportunity to squeeze in your work and play catch up. Plan ahead and work ahead. Don’t cause yourself unnecessary stress by procrastinating and being unprepared to dominate each day.
Make healthy habits a priority
I’m talking eating, sleeping and exercising. All three can greatly impact your stress levels in a negative way if you let them get out of control. Don’t skip lunch. I repeat, don’t skip lunch. I was guilty of this a lot during the work day and not only does it kill your productivity, but it makes you a lot more irritable. Schedule out your days so that you are consistently going to bed early enough to get a good night’s sleep and show up to your internship on time the next day. And don’t forget to take care of you by moving your body. Head to the gym, join an intramural sports league or squeeze in that evening run. Nothing takes care of stress like a good sweat sesh.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I remember what it’s like to get assigned a project as an intern and have no clue where to start. Terrifying! First tendency is to stress over it and try to figure it all out on your own so that no one realizes you don’t know what you’re doing. Well guess what? You’re an intern. You’re not supposed to know everything already, and your supervisor knows that. Remember, they’ve been in your shoes at one point too. Don’t be afraid to ask them for advice or feedback. If you’re concise and action oriented with your asks, they’ll be more than happy to talk it out with you.
Stay away from the office gossip
Now I know it may seem like a quick and easy way to fit in with your new colleagues, but believe me when I tell you, stay away from the gossip. Not only does it reflect poorly on you, but it can become so toxic. And a toxic work environment = stress. So do yourself a favor and stay away. If you need to vent about something stressful in your day, or an annoying coworker (the worst!), it is healthy to do so. However, just make sure you’re venting to someone completely unrelated to your work environment and keep it short. Blow off that steam and be done with it.
Brain dump to clear your head
During your internship you are going to have so much new information being thrown your way. It is totally normal to become overwhelmed by this. One of the best ways to combat the overwhelm, and reduce your stress, is to get it all out on paper. I recommend getting a journal and documenting your daily internship interactions. It’s a great way to go back and reference what you’ve learned. But at the very least, take a moment at the end of each day to do a brain dump. Write down whatever is running wild in your head. It will free up your mind, and allow you to relax without the constant worry that you are forgetting to do something.
So start chipping away at the internship stress with some of these techniques. And be sure to let me know if you ever give the CTFO sticky note a try.The good news is, you’ll look back at the end of your internship and laugh about how stressed you were when you started. That’s the thing about internships, you grow so much.
Interested in more internship inspo? Want to ensure you’re set up for success? The Course, The Intern Hustle’s flagship program, will be launching soon. Get on the list here so you don’t miss out on a second of it!