Trigger warning: Use of the terms “stress” and “anxiety”
Negotiating your time. This can be difficult, exhausting, and sometimes impossible. We experienced burnout because we made the cardinal sin of scheduling: always saying yes.
True, this is due in part to our disabilities, however, that is why we have to work at it consistently.
How to avoid the “Yes”
In society, it is often prompted to never say no for fear of being rude. In a workplace, you may fear saying yes to keep your job. Maybe even with friendships, you feel guilty for saying no. But saying no can help you better manage your stress and priorities. When you always say yes, you pile your responsibilities into an unmanageable stack of burdens. This not only hinders productivity but harms your mental health. Really, avoiding “yes” means you have to accept the flood of emotions you will feel that tell you “I have to say yes” or the anxiety of “what if…”
Avoid thinking of the worst and instead, think about your health.
Remember, when you are not at your best, none of the things you do will be the best. Your ability to focus, comprehend information and execute your tasks will falter.
Recently, we reached our limits of stress and anxiety at work. We practiced setting boundaries, but we did not say “no” enough. This happens! It is okay to realize that you have pushed yourself too far and then realize you need to dial it back. On good days, we will say yes because we feel like we CAN. But when the bad days hit, we over-committed and things drop. That is why we try to practice saying “no” in the best way possible.
Saying this word is not a simple task. It takes practice. It takes determination. It takes being motivated to take care of your health. A great way to say “no” is to word it so it is easily received by the other party. You can do the “No, I can’t, but later I can.” This sets the boundary without having harsh overtones. It means that you don’t have time at the moment, but you will make time for them or the task. This can apply in a business or personal interactions. For us, socializing can be exhausting. Even with friends, you may need to say “not right now.”
Another option is, to be honest about reaching your limits. There are situations where you just can’t accommodate others. This is okay. If a situation will worsen your health, you take priority.
Make a Mantra
We were watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and one of the participants, Jinx, had a mantra, “water off a duck's back.” Whenever the judges provided a critique, Jinx repeated it over and over out loud. Not only did this manage anxiety, but also was a verbal reminder to accept what the judges said but not to take it personally.
The same goes with saying “no”: make a mantra to remind yourself that it is okay to admit your limits and when you go into a situation that requires you to set a boundary, repeat it in your mind or even out loud. Our mantra is “We matter, We are worthy, We are valid.” This helps us feel less shame when setting a boundary at work. We know that when we push our limits, work suffers and that is no good to anyone.
Take some time this week to evaluate: Can you negotiate your time this week to make yourself feel happy, content, and less overwhelmed by saying “no”?
(Disclaimer: we are not medical professionals. The conclusion in this article is based on our personal experiences, diagnosis, and knowledge of mental health.)