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Barbara Jordan
Oct 12, 2010

A Delicate Balancing Act

We live in a culture that rewards sooner, more, better, faster. It’s almost as if society is telling us “if you’re not busy, not stressed, you’re not important.” When you buy into this lifestyle, you feel overcommitted and overwhelmed. Spending too much time on the job and too little time with family has become a chronic problem in America, as in many other countries worldwide. In today’s volatile economy with high unemployment, people fearful of losing their jobs slight their personal or family time.

Of course, working too much and playing, relating, and spending too little time with friends and family does very little for stress management. Now, more than ever before, we desperately need to reduce stress! Here are some habits you may need to break if you want more balance, peace, and calm in your life:
•trying to do as much as possible in the least amount of time
•becoming impatient with delays or interruptions
•finding yourself speeding up the car to beat the red light
•seldom asking for or indicating the need for help
•constantly seeking approval, acceptance, respect, and admiration
•remaining overly critical of yourself and others
•repeatedly looking at your watch or clock
•constantly striving to better your position and achievements
•spreading yourself "too thin"
•seldom having time for hobbies or time by yourself
•almost always doing more than one thing at a time
•having the tendency to get involved in multiple projects
•feeling guilty if you relax or do nothing during leisure

Here are some healthy ways people manage their stress via balance:
•exercise before your workday begins, during your noon break, or after work
•go to (or rent) a comedy, romance, or inspirational feel-good movie (the idea is to keep it uplifting and positive, not controversial or bleak)
•draw, paint, write, dance, play, or take part in some other creative activity
•talk with a friend, but be careful that you do not dominate the conversation with shop-talk or complaints about work
•meditate or pray; prayer helps you relax and gives you hope; it involves letting go of the need to control an outcome, asking Him for help, giving Him gratitude for your blessings, and seeking forgiveness; and, all of this gives you a positive focus.

Probably the hardest things you can do at work is saying no, especially to your supervisor. It’s a problem we all have. Why do we have such a hard time saying no? We fear it will hurt our relationship.
You may worry that your supervisor will be concerned that you can’t handle the work and responsibilities or that you’ll disappoint your team members. You may like the confidence you receive by getting an extra assignment and hate to pass up the opportunity to advance. You may fear you have no choice. Perhaps you feel you must say “yes” and cannot do anything about it.

How do you say “no” effectively so you don’t take on more than you can handle yet preserve the relationship? Here’s a great strategy: Present two positive statements, say “no”, and propose an alternative solution. For example, I might say, “I’d really love to chair that committee. I think they are doing really important work. This year, I’m so busy at work, that I don’t think I’d give it the attention it needs. How about if I attend the committee meetings every other month and contribute that way? This shows that you want to help in a way that you can commit to completely.

Sometimes saying “no” is difficult for women. We’ve been socialized to take care of others, to please, to be everything to everyone. But, you can’t do that without overextending and stressing yourself out. Let’s say you have all the clients you can possibly handle and your supervisor asks you to take on another group. Cue yourself, “state two positives, decline, propose an alternative”. Then tell your supervisor, “I really want to take on that group. It’s important that we do it. It could really meet the needs of our clients. When I looked at my reporting needs, I realized I had two assessment reports and three discharge summaries to write. With that kind of backlog, I’m concerned that I might drop the ball. Could I start on that group next month?”

Or, perhaps your supervisor asks you to work an extra shift. You respond to the request with the formula: yes, yes, no, alternative. Say, “I really want to take on another shift. I see you can use the extra help this week. I don’t have childcare coverage on Wednesday. But, I have time to get coverage Friday. Could I take the extra shift then? Would that work?”

Barbara Jordan is a counselor, counselor educator, author, trainer, and leadership coach. For more information go to

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