You know the scene. You work a 16-hour day and you are stressed out. The fear of losing your job prevents you from refusing more work, projects and responsibilities. But what is the result? You are at high risk of suffering from depression, stress-related illnesses and your relationships suffer. You have set a dangerous precedent and your company may assume this is your normal workload.
One study by the UK mental health charity, Mind, found that more than 60% of those surveyed felt that management was of no help at all. The sad fact is that many line managers haven’t a clue as how to manage their employees. Your manager is not going to change but you are! Time to call a halt. Here are 9 ways to say no to work stress.
‘You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.’ – Christopher Columbus
1. You must make a choice
The work will not decrease. In fact, you can expect a tsunami and your boss will still be just as unsympathetic as before. This is why you have to make a choice now. Thinking that you have no choice but to slave away is like letting yourself sink into quicksand. Only you have the power to choose not to kill yourself.
‘I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.’ – Steve Maraboli
2. Start prioritizing now
You have taken on too much and cannot finish all the projects within the set deadlines. Time to prioritize and start making a list. At the start of the day, make a list of everything you have to do, even the small stuff. Then decide what goes to the top, because of urgent deadlines. Then try and delegate any minor jobs. Resolve to check emails only at set times during the day. Avoid multitasking and reacting to work as it shows up.
At the end of the day, review your list and start to make a list for tomorrow. This is the method preferred by Paula Rizzo which you can see on the video here.
3. Learn how to say no
Your boss asks you to do another task. You are afraid of confrontation and you are worried that your colleagues may resent your refusal. But you are the one who is going to suffer. You are at risk of damaging your career when you make mistakes or miss yet another deadline. Here are some ways that you can say ‘no’ in the most assertive, yet diplomatic way:
- Mention one urgent project that is taking up all your time.
- Suggest a different time limit for the proposed extra work.
- Don’t use the word ‘no’ directly.
- Don’t be apologetic or feel guilty.
- Point out the risks of missing other more pressing deadlines.
- Mention what you need help with to finish the most urgent task.
- If you are nervous about a verbal refusal, ask for time to think about it and then reply by email, stating some of the reasons mentioned above.
4. Set boundaries
Make sure that you are getting breaks and having a decent lunch break. Avoid snacking at your desk. Think about working long hours. Is it worth it? Consider this:
- Your productivity goes down as darkness falls.
- You make more mistakes when tired.
- You are putting your career at risk.
- You are not managing your time properly.
- Your mood gets worse and worse and damages relationships with colleagues.
5. Talk about the problem
Confide in a trusted colleague, friend or your partner. Try to examine what is happening. Are there ways that you can improve your work procedures?
Make a firm decision to stop working at a certain time a few days of the week. Work out in the gym, go for a walk or meet a friend for a chat. Doing exercise will release the endorphins and automatically lift your mood. Remember that if you are tired, hungry or in a bad mood, your productivity will be negatively affected. It is much better to work shorter hours more efficiently.
7. Deal with anxiety
Let’s imagine you have to give a presentation and you are extremely nervous about it. Latest research suggests that trying to calm yourself may not be the best strategy. If you acknowledge that you are excited and get psyched up by accepting that, then surprising things begin to happen. The study done by the Harvard Business School suggests that the anxiety remains but the combination with the excitement seems to control the nerves. Participants who did this all performed better than those who were trying to calm down.
You can experiment and see what works best for you. Many people still benefit in taking a calming supplement such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy or chamomile.
8. Take a holiday
You must be joking! Look at the statistics. If people looked after their stress levels, just by taking time off or using their time better, then the economy would start to boom again. Estimates by the European Union have calculated that as much as 60% of lost days caused by absenteeism are due to stress-related illnesses.
The Britons work the longest hours in the whole of Europe and they have reached the unenviable record of putting in about 40 days of overtime every year which is unpaid!
9. Start with small changes
It is unlikely that your workload will be dramatically reduced, even if you threaten to leave. Your manager will not change either. The best solution is to start by making small changes, such as time management or learning how to say no to a crushing workload. You are in the frontline. Look after yourself. Nobody else will!
‘It is not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.’ – Hans Selye
Featured photo credit: Sleeping pills/Dean via Flickr