In TZR’s franchise Scare-Free Sundays, industry leaders discuss the all-too-common weekend anxiety (known as the Sunday Scaries) that can rob one of the relaxation and rest they so desperately need to properly take on the week ahead. Here, we sit down with designer and business woman Jenna Lyons who discusses the stress-fighting strategies she employs.
As the creative director and president for J.Crew (and the “Woman Who Dressed America,”) Jenna Lyons was, well, very busy ... to say the very least. Days were filled with meetings, deadlines, fittings, photoshoots, travel, and more meetings. Upon her departure from the company in 2017 Lyons steered her career in a different direction ... several actually. Over the last five years, the business woman has tackled a number of ventures including interior design (she’s an “expert” on design consultation platform The Expert and also lends her decor expertise to a number of hotels), reality TV (you can watch her 2020 show Stylish With Jenna Lyons on HBOMAX), and even the beauty industry (she’s the founder of faux lash company LoveSeen).
And while one might think that being the commander of your own ship allows you a bit more freedom when it comes to scheduling and work/life balance, this just isn’t the case for Lyons. “I remember when I left J.Crew, I thought, It would really be nice if I could focus on one thing like, ‘I’m gonna focus on hotels today, I’m gonna focus on lashes today, I’m gonna focus on interior design projects today.’” explains Lyons. “I thought that would be so great, but the fact of the matter is, my brain is like, ‘That sounds kinda boring, let’s do a bit of everything.’ I have standard check-ins and time for [all my projects]. So, I have fixed time in the week, but then everything else gets filled in in-between. I’m somewhat of a half-baked friend and mom.”
But she’s far from a half-baked entrepreneur. In fact, in discussing LoveSeen’s latest lash launch — the brand recently debuted its new Featherlift Lashes — Lyons walked me through her hands-own approach to customer service, and it became all too clear why she never truly goes off-duty. “What’s cool is, I get to talk to people directly,” explains Lyons. “People DM me and ask me which lash they should buy, and I’m like, ‘Send me a picture of yourself and I’ll let you know.’ It’s what I do all night! I love that direct connection.”
Said direct connection, however, can also make the line between work and personal time, well, non-existent. So how exactly does a multi-hyphen business woman manage to make time for herself and, more importantly, keep anxiety and burn out to a minimum? Ahead, Lyons spills her strategy.
With your constantly shifting schedule, do you ever get a day off?
I feel really lucky. They say, ‘Do what you love and you never feel like you’re working.’ The reason I do lashes and interiors in my spare time is because it’s what I wanted to do. I love beauty and beauty products. I was always buying things and testing things out. And the same goes for interiors, I’m constantly redoing my room or rearranging the furniture or scrolling through Instagram and vintage shopping on 1stDibs. So do I get time off? Yes, I have free time. But, I will not lie to you: I’m still interested in doing a makeup look on Instagram just for fun or rearranging my living room on the weekends. That stuff still feels like fun for me. But, I’m sure I’m a bit of a workaholic.
Do you have any strict rules you abide by during the weekends or OOO days to avoid working or thinking about work?
I do have morning rituals, and things that I do that are my standard and that helps a lot with setting things in the beginning of the day. I literally workout every day. And the days that I don’t, I feel it. I also do a daily morning conversation with a small group of women. Someone started a practice called a gratitude list. There’s a book called The Happiness Advantage that talks about all these people who have happy, successful existences. It talks specifically about how a leader is infectious. If you’re not feeling well, and not feeling good, it’s tangible and infecting the whole team. It also addresses how people who have gratitude are conscious about it. When you actually, consciously [express gratitude], it helps you feel better and those people are successful in creating a healthy culture.
When do your Sunday Scaries creep in? What are they like?
Sunday is typically the day I start to feel nervous about the week ahead. Because my job [schedule] is not consistent right now and changes from one week to the next, it manifests differently, depending on what I have going on for the coming week. Like, if there’s a week in which I have to do a big presentation that can be scary. I’m one of those people who does much better if I shoot from the hip and speak from the heart. If I prepare too much I have a tendency to think when I talk and I trip myself up. So I get super nervous when I have to present or stand in front of a group or be the one leading the meeting. And that’s like a full-scale, laying-on-my-bed [thing]. I’m not one to full-on hyperventilate, but there are times when my inner thoughts are stronger than what’s happening.
Any secret power practice or mechanism you use to combat these nerves and Sunday Scaries feelings?
Box breathing! It’s the only thing that can kind of help me [when I’m stressing out]. It’s when you breathe in for six counts, hold for six counts, breathe out for six counts, and then hold for six counts. It requires a lot of focus so it’s almost meditative. It also brings your heart rate down.
What does your Sunday evening routine look like? Do you do anything in particular to mentally prepare yourself for the week ahead?
I feel like the week always used to come at me before. I never really geared up for it. By the time I got rest for the week prior, it was already Sunday and I had no emotional space to prepare for the coming week. That was partly due to the level of intensity of the job that I had. Now I have this really calculated process, which [involves] going through my week and seeing how I can schedule exercise so I’ll actually do it. I spend 20 to 30 minutes planning the week and think about things like, What are we eating? Do I have snacks for my kid? I always feels bad when things sort of come at you before you can actually manage them. I used to live that way and I didn’t do very well.
What other strategies do you employ to combat stress and intrusive thoughts that can come before the work week?
[In The Happiness Advantage], there’s this thing called the ‘Zorro Circle.’ [Author Shawn Achor] was a teacher at Harvard and there was a kid who was falling behind and not doing very well. People in his dorm started to complain because his room was a mess. [The student] couldn’t focus because he couldn’t find any space on his desk. So [Achor] was like, ‘Let’s just take this one space on your desk. And we’re going to really clear this one circle of space, about 10-inches big in diameter. That’s all we’re going to do and not do anything else. The rest of the room was a total disaster, but he said, ‘Don’t worry about that right now. Just keep this one space clear for two to three days.’
And when [Achor] came back, the circle was still clear, and he said, ‘OK, let’s make the circle a little bigger.’ So, it’s this idea of training yourself to take on small motions [like with a sword] before attempting the bigger ones. It’s about giving yourself some prep before taking on the entire thing. So, the small things for me [during the week] are figuring out food, setting my exercise schedule for the week, and that makes me feel better. And the rest of it doesn’t feel as overwhelming. Because if I think about the entire week at once, all the things I have to do — do I have to travel, when do I have to do my hair and makeup, who will I be with, what do I have to wear — I will lose my sh*t. But if I just make sure this part of my life is set, it helps so much.
I also made a moratorium on going out on Sundays. So now, I’ll do pizza and game night on Sundays, and that’s a nice quiet thing I do. I’m really into Rummikub — it’s so good for your brain.
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