April is Stress Awareness Month, and we’re smack bang in the middle of the most stressful time any of us will ever see. Let’s look at what would have been one of the major causes of stress before our world was abducted by the invisible enemy. Perhaps there’s a valuable lesson to be learned.
Another work project, an invitation to the fourth consecutive night out, an expensive hen do (from a distant friend), agreeing to a weekly spin class to please a work colleague (when a light jog around the park is significantly more pleasurable); we’ve perhaps all been guilty of taking on more than we can handle.
Recently, the decision on whether to accept or decline was temporarily swiped right out of our incredibly clean hands. Our previous lives now feel like another existence. At some stage, we will enter a new normal. As our once over-spilling digital diaries resemble the bleakness of today’s supermarket shelves, we’ve had considerable time at home to reflect. But as desperate as we may be for any social contact, should we restock our lives with caution?
I’ve previously talked about how empowering it can be to say no, but if you’re a people pleaser, it may not come naturally. Here are a few tried and tested techniques that will help you politely decline when you acclimatise to the reformed outside world. What better time than now to really calm your life down.
Don’t commit straight away
How many times do you agree to something on the spot, then walk away kicking yourself, wondering how the hell you’re going to get out of it? Think of the wasted time, energy and unnecessary stress this causes you. Say you need to think about it, and you’ll get back to them. This gives you time to decide and think of a response.
Make it positive
So you’ve decided, on this occasion, to decline. But how do you actually say it? Make it positive and show some appreciation, ‘Thank you for thinking of me, but I won’t be able to’. You could always add, ‘Maybe next time’.
You don’t need to explain yourself, or think of a long-winded excuse, but sometimes a little honesty helps the other person accept your decision without offense. You can say this isn’t a good time for you, or you simply have too much on.
You have a choice
Putting things into perspective should be easier now than ever. But if you are struggling to decline, and the guilt has kicked in, remember you have a choice. Tapping into the logical part of your brain and opting for practicality, rather than emotion, will help. Don’t feel guilty, this is self-care.
Say no to yourself
According to Ofcom, on average we check our phones every 12 minutes. I would think this frequency might have significantly risen in recent weeks. Each check-in triggers a spike in our stress levels, and it just takes a little self-control to change the habit. You don’t need to respond to every message straight away. Turn your notifications off, put your phone out of sight, and you’ll be less tempted. Friends will soon understand, and accept, that you don’t always give an immediate response. You won’t miss out; you’re simply managing expectations and slowing things down. You’ll not only gain respect, you might even find it catches on.