I need to start this article with a confession. When I was asked to start blogging for Horsepower and Heels, only two names came to mind when I thought of women and motorsports: Danica Patrick and Lyn St. James. Watching the Indy 500 each year was religion in my family, and my dad is a diehard car nut (muscle cars from the 1960’s to be exact). His enthusiasm for cars spilled over to me, and I often joined him at car shows. When my dad took me drag racing for the first time at Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, WI, I pulled my first holeshot and was hooked. Competition in any form is part of my DNA.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m now so excited to learn more about how many women are involved in motorsports at all levels. I burned out toward the end of my law practice, so I am keenly aware of the toll stress can take in a high pressure, high- stakes environment.
Motorsports is both high pressure and high-stakes, so here are five strategies to help you manage the stress:
Job craft. Job crafting is like Spanx for the workplace. It’s simply a way for you to re-shape your job to better suit your strengths, values and interests. Once you identify your values, strengths, and interests, you can think of new ways to expand or alter the tasks you perform, how you relate to your colleagues, and/or how you think about your job as a whole. For example, are you just a member of the pit crew or are you a trailblazer in a tough profession? That simple shift in how you think about your work can have ripple effects in terms of energy and engagement. Most people don’t land the perfect job – they have to mold it into something that is perfect for them.
Give yourself some credit – you’re “building the plane as you fly it.” When I started working for the Army teaching and training resilience skills to soldiers, launching the program was more important to the Army than making sure every single skill was perfectly designed. Army officials said of the program, “We are building the plane as we fly it.” When my mom was a teenager, her high school didn’t offer sports programs for girls because Title IX didn’t exist. Both of my grandmothers did factory work because getting an education beyond high school wasn’t emphasized, and even if they had gone to college, their professional options were limited. That’s not the case today. Women have many opportunities to pursue their educational and professional goals, but the problem is that we often don’t have a model to follow – we’re “building the plane as we fly it.” This is especially true of women in motorsports – you are true pioneers. Media messages, societal expectations, and the pressure we put on ourselves (and each other) have resulted in an impossible standard – “do it all and do it perfectly.” As a result, most high-achieving women I know are exhausted and burned out.
Determine your “Giver Type.” In his book Give and Take, Dr. Adam Grant offers a unique perspective on success and classifies people as givers, takers, or matchers based on their styles of social interaction. Takers like to get more than they give, givers are other-focused and prefer to pay attention to what other people need from them, and matchers are a blend, wanting an equal balance between giving and taking. Dr. Grant has identified different sub-sets of givers, two of which are “selfless” givers and “otherish” givers. Selfless givers give their time and energy without regard to their own needs (hey – it’s 3pm and I haven’t eaten yet today!). Selfless giving, in the absence of recovery, becomes overwhelming and can drive burnout. Otherish givers, however, find a way to balance giving with their own self-interest and self-care. As you probably guessed, selfless givers are more likely to burn out. You can determine your giving style at www.giveandtake.com.
Increase your diet of positive emotions. In the past two decades, positive emotions have emerged as a key element in building stress resilience. Positive emotions promote pro-social behavior (causing you to seek out help from others), spark health coping strategies (like becoming more solution-focused when under pressure), and reverse the negative physiological impact of stress. Studies show that high-performing individuals tend to experience positive to negative emotions at a ratio of about 3:1; for high-performing teams, that ratio is closer to 6:1. You can get your positivity ratio at www.positivityratio.com.
Turn your inner critic into your inner coach. This version of a Mark Twain quote so accurately captures how your inner critic can get in the way: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Whether you drag race, are part of a pit crew, or are behind the scenes, being a flexible, accurate, and thorough thinker under stress and pressure is a foundational skill set for resilience; however, thinking traps, your core beliefs about your life experiences, and runaway thinking, or catastrophizing, can sabotage even the best intentions. The good news is that with some simple techniques, you can retrain your brain so that your inner critic either shows up less frequently or with less intensity. I have a free worksheet to get you started.
Beyoncé calls her alter ego Sasha Fierce. If I had an alter ego, it would be some version of all of you. Motorsports needs more badass women like yourselves involved in all facets of the business. My mission is to help you continue to kick butt in this tough profession because your time, energy and talents are so needed.
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