The internship series

Tips for Managing Stress During Your Internship

Learn four ways to balance your days and practice mindfulness as an intern.

When power management company Eaton transitioned its summer 2020 internship program to an entirely virtual format, its program leaders used a weekly “Intern Learning Series” to equip interns with skills that extend far beyond the energy industry. This thoughtfully curated series of life lessons touched on meaningful topics like fostering connection through good communication, and demonstrating resilience during challenging circumstances like COVID-19. One July session, entitled “Powering Your Mindfulness,” focused on utilizing mindfulness practices to manage stress, bring balance to workdays, and care for your mental health at work. 

In preparation for this mindfulness course, Eaton encouraged its interns to read Harvard Business Review’s “How to Get Through an Extremely Busy Time at Work” and watch Big Think’s “Dan Harris’ Panic Attack (and Discovery of Meditation).” This prep material provides advice that can benefit any young professional! 

Ahead, learn four ways to manage stress and practice mindfulness during your internship. Plus, don’t forget to follow Eaton on Handshake to learn more about exciting job and internship opportunities with the company.

Block time for mental rest

The first article from Eaton’s list recommends not trying to fill every spare moment with productive activity, but rather allowing a few moments to breathe during the workday. Instead of taking the two minutes between Zoom meetings to frantically write an email, HBR says: “Consider using brief waiting times for true mental breaks. Take some slow breaths, drop your shoulders, and just chill.” 

It’s easier said than done, but don’t underestimate the value of deep breathing and a few minutes away from your screen to recalibrate if you’re feeling frantic during your internship.  

Compartmentalize big tasks

Rather than letting a large to-do list task overwhelm you, think about it in segments—and, HBR recommends, think of a positive element to each segment. For example, if you’ve got to tackle creating a large Powerpoint presentation for your manager, consider breaking it up in your mind (and your calendar):

  1. Outline the presentation info 
  2. Build the slides 
  3. Edit and double-check any figures 
  4. Review with manager

Suddenly, one big task that felt insurmountable is now four smaller, simpler to-do list items to check off. 

Practice mindfulness meditation

In the Big Think video above, journalist and television anchor Dan Harris shares his experience with anxiety that led to discovering mindfulness meditation. After his experience grappling with a nationally televised panic attack, Harris founded Ten Percent Happier, an app to help teach the basics of meditation to skeptics. You can try it free to learn the basics of mindfulness meditation, including how to deal with thoughts, discomfort, and emotions that might arise during meditation. There are also plenty of free, guided mindfulness meditations available on YouTube from reputable organizations like Calm

Work smarter, not harder 

Harvard Business Review recommends implementing Premack’s Principle into your day to make it less stressful and more pleasurable. “Premack’s principle (as it applies here) is to use an easier behavior as a reward for a harder behavior,” reads Eaton’s suggested article. Organize your day by alternating between tasks that intimidate you and simple tasks you enjoy. 

For example, if you’re a social media marketing intern, you might feel stressed when drafting reports on monthly analytics for each social channel. Find another easy task you enjoy to immediately follow the report-writing; it might be whipping up a cool graphic for Instagram, or collecting pretty visual inspiration on Pinterest to help build a campaign moodboard. By giving yourself this reward in the form of work that still helps you whittle away your to-do list, you’ll help balance the stress of your internship in a positive way.

Even the most incredible jobs can have their stressful moments, especially with the added complexities of a global pandemic. But with the right techniques to manage your time and response to your new internship environment, you can emerge stronger and happier! As they say, pressure makes diamonds.