Managing the Anxiety That Comes from Constant Communication: A Wit & Delight Roundtable

Career Development

Illustration by @raquelbenedict.ai

We glamorize communication. I don’t know when it happened. But suddenly, being busy and communicating with fast fingers and an eager, beating heart is the definition of success, the ideal professional expectation. I don’t like it, but I tend to work constantly. Seconds after I open my eyes from a short night’s rest, I barely give myself ten seconds to live peacefully in my body. I’m answering emails and torpedoing into a pressurized Insta Cooker of eager responses, follow-ups, and circle backs. 

We all feel it. The pressure to communicate. The world has given us technology and every moment of our lives to be “getting back to people” and I can feel the pressure to be available in my lower back and soul parts. It’s tough. How does constant communication make us feel? Are we only as valuable as how quickly we can respond? How do we manage the madness? 

That’s why I took the opportunity to chat with three influential women in the Twin Cities to find out how constant communication and managing the constant pressure behind their professional worlds work for them. Between all three women, they receive hundreds of notifications/texts/calls each day. Wit & Delight world, say hi to Sarah Edwards, Giselle Ugarte, and Falen Gotler. Grab a mug of coffee, sit back, turn off the notifications on your phone, and enjoy their delightful insight.

To start, what does your typical workday look like?

Sarah Edwards

Founder of an experiential marketing agency and social media studio, I AM Sarah Edwards, and Cofounder of Fashion Week MN

I can say that all my days are completely different. I might be out at a corporate meeting at 3M, sitting in an artist’s studio in Northeast, prepping for an event, producing a photo or video shoot, meeting with clients, or getting my hair done. The funny thing is, sometimes I do things like go to the dog park in the middle of the day. My friends that have regular jobs think that’s wonderful but in reality, there are so many unconventional times I’m working and so many evening events that I like to think it all equals out in the end. I need to physically move my body or my anxiety skyrockets. My anxiety is very much connected to getting a sweat in. 

Giselle Ugarte

Speaker, Marketing Director at Media Bridge Advertising

No day is ever the same. I always journal in the evening and try to mentally prepare myself for the next crazy. I usually wake up between 6 am and 7 am and stay email/electronics free until I get to the office around 8 am or 9 am. Sometimes that office is Media Bridge Advertising. Sometimes that office is my home storefront full of boxes. Sometimes the day is back-to-back meetings until late into the evening, and sometimes it’s full of learning, studying, and writing.

The back-to-back days working on the business suck the most, because I feel like I lack time to work in the business. I took a tip from our CEO and started turning down all meetings on Fridays if I could avoid it, so I could spend that day fully immersed in catching up on communication and organizing multiple email boxes. If I can, I try to give myself one day a week to sleep in. At least one day every month I will do absolutely NOTHING for an entire day, except sleep and maybe shower, or order in and catch up on Netflix. I usually spend some time each weekend working. 

Falen Gotler

Cohost of Dave Ryan in the Morning Show on KDWB, Host of Heartbroken with Falen podcast

Monday through Friday, my days are pretty similar. I wake up around 5 am and quickly get ready for work. I grab coffee and get into the office in time to reply to some emails and start my show. We do the 6 – 10 am show and record an after the show podcast for about 15 minutes. We start recording bits and planning the show for the following day after that. I’m usually finished with recording 11:30 am. Then, I usually record commercials.

On Thursdays, I record my Heartbroken podcast for an hour around lunchtime. I typically get out by noon and grab lunch. I head home to relax for a bit and weekdays are filled with station events like book club once a month, meetings with clients, and “appearances.’ I hosted a Q&A for Stranger Things this past Sunday. On Friday, I hosted a Shawn Mendes pre-party. Most appearances are two hours, and they vary on times.

I try to nap, but I only get about two in a week. I will usually get up and check social/station email/personal emails. Then, I make dinner. We eat early at around 6 pm. After that, I get online to finalize show stuff or update my station blog. I’m generally active on social media throughout the day. We usually watch TV or go on a walk and watch one show before going to bed around 9 pm. 

Sarah Edwards | Photo Courtesy of Holly Davies

What are your personal “keys to success?” What makes you a better professional?

Sarah

My key to success is being comfortable and never perfect. I’ve never had the resources to be a perfectionist. Doing the most with what I have has taught me resourcefulness and creativity. I’ve always been good at listening to people and figuring out how they may need help. I connect dots all day long. Hiring people to do things that I’m not good at (accounting, taxes, project management, cleaning my house) makes me a better professional.

Giselle

I don’t stress easily, and I’m extremely adaptable. I don’t sweat about people or the things I can’t control. Some would describe my sense of optimism as obnoxious or fake, but I’ve had plenty of experience falling on my face and picking myself up again—and I’m not afraid to own it and even talk about it. From broken business deals and dumb investments to failed relationships and my own struggles with anxiety. I try to pass that kind of authenticity off to my clients and new hires, and I look forward to working with people who are smarter than I am, stronger than I am, and more disciplined than I am. We can make each other better.

Falen

My one key to success (I think) is doing what I want. I don’t mean that in a way like, “Screw everyone…I’ll do what I want.” What I mean is that if I have an idea, I execute it. I don’t sit around and think of how the idea can fail. I start working toward a goal, and I find that most of the time it works out. I go into things with the mindset, “Because I’m trying this, or because I want to do this, it doesn’t mean I am committed to it for life.” Most of my side projects are intended to be short-term. 

My one key to success (I think) is doing what I want. I don’t mean that in a way like, ‘Screw everyone…I’ll do what I want.’ What I mean is that if I have an idea, I execute it. I don’t sit around and think of how the idea can fail. I start working toward a goal, and I find that most of the time it works out. – Falen Gotler

Communication is, of course, key. How many communication threads do you deal with on a daily basis? From there, how many messages/emails do you typically receive? 

Sarah

I don’t even know. Hundreds? There is Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook (Business & Personal), email, Bumble (Interviewees’ note: BIZZ, TONY!), text and phone calls. It’s really too much. 

Giselle

We use email and Slack strictly for work communication in an attempt to categorize our chats by topic or client. I’m a night owl, so I’ve made it clear if I send them an email or a Slack “after-hours,” they can ignore the message. If you get a text, it’s urgent (or has absolutely nothing to do with work). We use Asana to assign tasks and Monday to track them. We try to do as much Face-Time or over the phone communication with clients to compliment email threads. Since starting this, I’ve gotten 32 texts, 28 Slack messages, and 115 emails to my work inbox (not including personal messages).

Falen

I communicate with my morning show via email, text, and Chatter. If there’s a text, it’s urgent. With that said, we joke around all day on the text thread. I am in charge of the morning show email, Facebook and Instagram, and my station social media/email. I don’t even know where to start counting. Email 30+ a day. Social 50+ a day. Chatter 25+ a day. Text 40+ a day.

I am sweating for all of you! That’s a lot of communication. With all of that extra pull, do you feel as if constant communication hurts your (personal/professional) relationships in any way?

Sarah

Yes and no. I’m good at what I do because I’m a connector. I’m constantly connecting dots. Having my pulse on the Twin Cities allows me to better serve my clients because I’m constantly inundated with messages about unique projects businesses and individuals are working on. The constant communication is hard because it is IMPOSSIBLE to receive that many messages a day and not get distracted. So, even if my phone isn’t in front of me, my brain won’t shut off. There are definitely times I feel guilty because I’m out in la-la land in my head and need to try really hard to focus on exactly where I am. 

Giselle

Not at all. But it used to! I usually keep my phone in my car or my purse when I’m with my family, partner, and close friends (which I sometimes regret, because I always forget to take pictures with the ones who matter most to me). While my entire family doesn’t totally understand what I do, my parents have always encouraged me that work should come first, so there are definitely times when I can’t make it to every gathering. I’m also finally with a partner who fully supports my ambition and admires my discipline (he, too, is also very work-driven). If we’re together and have work to do, we’ll give the other a heads up beforehand. Or, if it’s been a crazy week and we haven’t gotten a lot of time together, we’ll snuggle up on the couch with our laptops, music, and occasional dance breaks.  

Falen

I don’t, but I have slowly become better at turning my phone over. If I’m with family, I don’t look at it during dinner. I know that anything can wait 30 to 40 minutes. I am getting better at this overall, but I pride myself on timely responses. 

Sarah Edwards (left) and Giselle Ugarte (right) | Photo Courtesy of Holly Davies

When you’re unable to respond to all messages, what is it about the lack of communication that makes you uncomfortable? Where do you feel the anxiety coming from?

Sarah

For me, it all comes down to knowing what it’s like when you are excited about something and want other people to get excited too. Or sharing something with someone you feel connected to and the feeling you get when they don’t respond. Silence makes you feel like they don’t care. I never want anyone to feel unheard or inadequate. But, I need to be realistic that it isn’t my job to respond to every single message I receive. It’s literally impossible.

I’ve been thinking more about the whole “you can’t pour from an empty cup” thing. I know I can do more and make a bigger impact if I feel like I’m standing firmly. The biggest thing I don’t know how to respond to is ALL THE COFFEE REQUESTS. They’re all day, every day. I hate using the response “I’m busy” but I haven’t figured out a kind enough way to respond. I’m open to suggestions!

Giselle

Where I get anxiety is not in the lack of communication, but in the multitasking and trying to keep up with every aspect of the business. I’ve now turned off all notifications for social media and I set my phone to “Do Not Disturb” at night. Game changer! Anyway, I used to feel like I was playing this never-ending game of catch-up, and drowning in the middle of the ocean. I finally feel like I’m above water, because I surrendered the idea of “doing it all” and instead began accepting much-needed help and learning how to say no. If communication is not in line with my mission, my health, my people or my values, it’s a no.

I also learned how to be very intentional with how I spend my moments every single time I open up my phone or my computer. For instance, if I’m sitting down to “get work done,” I make a list of exactly what I need to get done and a specific amount of time in which I need to do it. Because, otherwise, it’ll turn into this clusterf*ck of emails, texts, presentations, phone calls, Instagram, and then—oh, shit—I didn’t even finish the deck I sat down to write.

Right now, for example, my intention is to answer this interview as thoughtfully as possible. So, even though I have notifications galore sprinkling my screen: NOPE! That’s not my intention right now. Around 5 pm, I’ll set aside a window to answer emails. If it’s an emergency, they can call me. Rule of thumb: I will always answer phone calls from my mom. 

Falen

I don’t like letting people down. I feel overwhelmed responding to people who listen to the show. I get a lot of the same messages and a lot of messages in general, so I want them all to feel heard because it means so much to me that they follow/care/took the time to message me. But it is time-consuming. With my coworkers, I want to be reliable. I want to help them when they need help, so if I haven’t responded in a timely manner, I stress because I feel like I’m not doing a good enough job or being a “team player.” 

In your opinion, what do you think we can do as a society to help lessen the pressure to “respond to everything?”

Sarah

Honestly? Education. We need more education around the harm of not giving ourselves space. We need to educate ourselves on boundaries. I’d sign up for that course immediately! We need to educate ourselves on holistic health and intention. It wasn’t too long ago that we weren’t attached to our phones. It’s bizarre to think about. I left my phone at home today and it was awesome (BUT I ACTUALLY HAVE TWO PHONES SO IT PROBABLY DOESN’T COUNT, EH?!).

Giselle

I appreciate when other business leaders share how they “do it all” or give credit to the ones helping them do the work. But I believe the highest amount of pressure comes from ourselves—from wanting to achieve an unrealistic standard of perfection and/or comparing ourselves to other seemingly more productive superhumans. We need to give ourselves permission to feel overwhelmed, ask for help, seek guidance, find mentors, take time, and get some freaking rest! 

I believe the highest amount of pressure comes from ourselves—from wanting to achieve an unrealistic standard of perfection and/or comparing ourselves to other seemingly more productive superhumans. We need to give ourselves permission to feel overwhelmed, ask for help, seek guidance, find mentors, take time, and get some freaking rest! – Giselle Ugarte

Falen

It really is our job to set expectations, but I don’t feel like I have that luxury with my job. My coworkers know I go to sleep at 9 pm, which is earlier than any of them, and I think we all agree everything should be settled and planned by then anyway. But, I don’t know how to minimize expectations during the day. I had a coworker tell me I should only respond to social messages at a certain time. People eventually catch on. She responds at 6 pm. I haven’t adapted that yet because I hate seeing a number by my email icon or the red dot on Instagram with unread messages! 

How do you combat constant communication? Do you practice daily rituals? Moments without your phone? Do you have any soothing remedies?

Sarah

No. I’m pretty garbage at this but would love to learn how to be better! The best thing I do for my mental health is chase our dogs around the kitchen island and make jokes with Tony. We try to practice this daily. 

Giselle

I mentioned a handful of suggestions above, but one more I’ll add is being mindful of the type of content that you’re scrolling through on your feed and in your inbox. If you’re following and working with people who suck, rather than people who inspire you to be an even more authentic and beautiful version of unique you, you need to get your head and newsfeed right. If they don’t line up with the woman you want to be, unsubscribe! You have total control over what you consume. I believe the same is true of clients, vendors, and partners. I acknowledge this statement comes with some level of privilege, because I’m at a point in my career where I’m no longer starving and in need of taking every single paycheck that comes my way, but I do think you need to start your platform of integrity early on so you don’t find yourself on a detour toward dollars, asking yourself why the heck you followed this path in the first place.

Also, try not to look at a message or a piece of mail more than once. If you open it and you can respond right away, do it—especially if it’s to decline an offer. The longer you wait, the harder it is to say no and the easier it is to talk yourself out of your decision.

Falen

No, I really don’t. I am honestly quite addicted to my phone. Like I said, I put it down during dinner most of the time. If we go on a walk, I try to leave it at home or in the car. I do bring it to bed, but I don’t really scroll too much at night. 

Giselle Ugarte (and her pup, Penelope) | Photo Courtesy of Holly Davies

If you had to give any advice for those feeling the anxiety from constant communication, what would it be?

Sarah

Think about your intention. I easily forget about this and get caught in a whirlwind of messages like a screen zombie. When I can think more about what my intentions are, they can help me figure out which messages to respond to and when. Also, be kind TO YOURSELF. I talk about the importance of kindness all the time and then I don’t think about how being kind to myself is equally important. 

Think about your intention. I easily forget about this and get caught in a whirlwind of messages like a screen zombie. When I can think more about what my intentions are, they can help me figure out which messages to respond to and when. – Sarah Edwards

Giselle

All of the above. And also find a tribe of women who reflect the type of boss, leader, and communicator you want to be. I consider all of the women in this article to be trusted allies, who I can call on for advice or for help. Falen and I have legitimately done role-playing over the phone for how to respond to emails and how to turn down business. I didn’t get a mentor until much later in my career because I didn’t want to be a burden on their precious time and because I was too prideful. I wanted to be able to do it all myself. As it turns out, my mentors have become my best friends and reach out to me for a second opinion as much as I reach out to them for pick-me-ups. If I have any regrets it’s that I didn’t find and lean on my lady tribe sooner.

Falen

I think asking what has worked for others in your field will give you ideas, and then you can take the ideas that would work for you to create your own path. Every career is different, and every job is different. Bosses have different demands, so it’s hard to give advice on this honestly. In those moments I can’t do it all, I’ll reach out to my coworkers and ask if they can handle social for the day or week. They are always willing to help. That gives me a little break, and I really try to avoid everything on Saturdays. I don’t mind texting my coworkers fun stuff, but I really try to avoid work-related anything unless it’s a paid event.


How do you manage the constant communication that seems to be expected of us all in our modern society? We’d love to hear your input and advice in the comments!

BY Brittany Chaffee - August 21, 2019

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