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Want To Reduce Work Stress? Here's How To Protect Your Peace.

There is no upside to working yourself into an early grave.

Workin' Girl

One of the toughest parts of this new normal where we can all work remotely is we've now lost the clear separation between work and home. We end up working longer hours without breaks because there is no commute, and it seems like even more is expected of us working at home because we don't have any office distractions.

But the truth is, there is NO upside to working yourself into an early grave. Work stress and burnout are real, and they can negatively impact both our physical and mental health, our productivity, and even our relationships with friends and family. Therefore, boundaries are necessary to maintain your sanity and some level of work/life prioritization.

If you're thinking, "I hear you, Julia, BUT…that's easier said than done. If I start drawing boundaries with work, my company will think I'm not working hard enough or that I don't want to support the team," I've got you covered! Below I've outlined a few ways for you to start protecting your peace at work (whether at home or whenever we return to the office):

Say NO at work.

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Contrary to popular belief, it's perfectly OK to say NO at work. This does not mean you're not a team player or that you aren't willing to get work done. It simply means you are prioritizing your activities, and there may not be available bandwidth to take on additional work. If your supervisor or manager asks you to take on new tasks and you know you're already overloaded, schedule some time to walk through your current deliverables to see which ones can be placed on the backburner in favor of the new activities.

You can say something like, "Given the complexity of ABC tasks I'm already working on, I won't be able to add on XYZ as well and still complete everything accurately in the timeframe you've outlined. Which items would you prefer I prioritize first?" It is important that your supervisor is always clear on your work list so they have the appropriate context when assigning new projects.

Set boundaries in the workplace.

Let this be your confirmation:

Unless it's clearly part of your job description or communicated to you upon hiring, you should not need to be on-call for your employer. If you are performing at your highest level during standard business hours, meeting stated objectives, and providing your business partners and stakeholders with required information, your off-work hours should belong to you.

That's not to say there aren't peak times. We've all had to work on an accelerated project or complex presentation that may require unconventional hours. But outside of specific circumstances, get comfortable with leaving work where it is at the end of the day, and picking it up strong the following day.

If you find yourself receiving several late requests or calls, have a discussion with your management regarding role expectations and time commitments. You can also interact directly with those requesting your support. When you get something at the end of the day, respond with a quick note that says, "I received your request, and I will be glad to provide these details for you tomorrow." If you have a meeting scheduled for after-hours, propose a new (available) time and state, "I'm unavailable at XXpm, but I am open to meeting at XXam. Will that work for you?"

Remember if you don't draw the line, people may assume there isn't one!

Establish meeting agendas and objectives for better time management.

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This is particularly important if you are in leadership or management. When you are leading teams and setting the tone for an organization, your time truly dwindles. You cannot afford to spend time in meetings that serve no purpose, or else you will find yourself meeting all day during business hours, and then doing your actual work AFTER hours. When meetings are placed on your calendar, review them for agendas and expected outcomes.

Should you receive a meeting with a blank invitation comment box, don't shy away from responding to the sender to ask what the conversation is about, the main objectives, and how you can best provide value. This shows that you're not at all opposed to being part of the discussion, BUT ALSO, it politely lets them know you don't have time to be meeting about some upcoming meeting, which is a review of something they took offline in a prior meeting.

No more meetings about meetings in 2020.

Start delegating tasks more often.

Here's one more for my leaders and bosses! Start giving away your work. This is something I have personally struggled with as a manager because I feel like if something is given to me, I have to be the one to do it! Perhaps you've felt the same way, or you think, "If I want it done right, I have to do it myself." But keep in mind you are only one person, and there is only so much two hands can do. But if you have a team of competent, talented people working for you, tap into their skills and strengths. This gives you the opportunity to provide development and expand their work horizons, BUT ALSO, it gets some tasks off your plate so that you can better balance your more high-priority items, reduce your stress and anxiety levels, and work more efficiently. You've heard the saying: Many hands make light work. Take advantage of the resources you have and trust your team to help you carry the load.

Remember, you are not your job. You work to live, not live to work. And it's impossible to be at your best when you are constantly under excessive work stress. So be willing to put yourself first. There will always be another job, but there is only one you!

For more information about Julia Rock, check out Rock Career Development or follow her on Instagram and Twitter. To read more on work stress and the associated health impacts, check out this CDC report.

Join our xoTribe, an exclusive community dedicated to YOU and your stories and all things xoNecole. Be a part of a growing community of women from all over the world who come together to uplift, inspire, and inform each other on all things related to the glow up.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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