The Art of Saying "No"
There are few worse feelings than being overwhelmed and overburdened by tasks, responsibilities and an overflowing schedule. You wake up, knots in your stomach, wondering how the hell you’re going to find time to get everything done. Finding a day to relax…or even an hour to find any peace of mind is close to non-existent. Maybe you’re even feeling the stress creep on while you read this because you’re remembering your never-ending list of to-dos.
Have you ever taken a look at that infinite agenda and discerned what tasks are necessary, what are optional and self-inflicted or aren’t even your responsibility to begin with? Take a moment and do so. Because I can almost guarantee that a good chunk of your list is something you’ve taken on or have convinced yourself is priority, while realistically it wont impact your life whatsoever if it’s done or not.
I get it. I’ve been there. I would offer up my time to accomplish a million and a half things on a schedule that only allots 10.
We want to be helpful. We want to do for others. And a part of us does it because we need to feel that we play some significant role in the lives of others. But we never ask for help in return and then we piss and moan that we have no time for ourselves.
Our stress levels rise with our blood pressure, important things (ahem…like our MENTAL SANITY) get overlooked and left in disarray so we can bake a batch of cookies for the cub scouts, run fifty thousand errands, and take on double the work load to help our team members in the office. Meanwhile, who’s taking care of your needs? Because chocolate chip cookies and taking care of others’ responsibilities certainly aren’t.
My friends, I used to do the same thing. And even today, I need to occasionally remind myself to be mindful of my own schedule. For years, I’ve catered to other peoples lives; and mostly significant others’. I made sure I had time to cook and clean and be at their beckoning call in the event I could please.
Until the fateful day I learned a beautiful skill: The Art of Saying NO.
I was TERRIBLE at this. I was a “yes ma’am.” Oh you need that? Sure. Let me drop everything. MY life schedule became THEIR life schedule. And eventually it got to me. I LIVE for the Fall. Yes, I’m a “basic” New England girl when it comes to Fall. But there’s nothing that has BRITTANY plastered all over it more than rolling around in harvest scents, brilliant red and orange hues of fallen leaves and making everyday Halloween. If it were up to me, I’d live in a Tim Burton movie, scored by Danny Elfman. But that’s neither here nor there. The point is, two years ago, Fall came and Fall went and there I sat surrounded by barren trees, snow covered streets and a crockpot barely touched. My favorite season passed with not a fall festivity on the books. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW ANGRY THAT MADE ME?
My “do for others’” scale had tipped. No longer would I revolve my life around others’. Yes, I would still gladly be there for those who need me. But not by completely casting my own self-needs out. No, no. This is my life too!
So I learned the art of No. It took awhile, sure. But I practiced. When someone would ask if I could do something, I’d hesitate….Check my calendar 5 times over and stutter…until I spat out the ever-challenging, “No, I’m sorry I can’t.”
And it felt……GREAT.
At first I came up with excuses. “I have to go to a birthday party.” “I have to work.” “I have to …..”
But then it hit me. Why the hell do I need an excuse? If I want to sit on my ass for the day because I haven’t taken a day off I HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO!
“Sorry. I can’t” “Why not?” “I plan on relaxing that day.” Because I can. And so can you. We don’t need excuses to live our lives! And we shouldn’t feel ashamed for caring for ourselves.
Today, people ask me all the time how I manage my life. “You do SO much, how do you get it all done?” “How do you work all the time and not go crazy?”
The truth is, I do a lot, because I’m not stressed doing it. Because I take care of MY needs. I can’t help people day in and day out if I’m a loose cannon, ready to blow! I can’t help people, if I’m a hot mess myself. What sort of hypocritical nonsense is that? I don’t preach and go home to a life in shambles. I PRACTICE what I Preach. And one of the biggest lessons I help people in is a little thing called BALANCE.
Through the art of saying NO, we can provide ourselves balance. If I don’t want to take clients on a Friday night because I need a night to hang out with my friends, then I guarantee you I will do just that. If I don’t want to work weekends because I want to spend Saturday cuddled on the couch reading a book, I will do just that.
I strategically balance my life so that I can be successful, helpful, and take care of myself at the same time. You don’t need an excuse to say NO either OR an excuse to care for yourself! Who’s supposed to care for everyone you care for if you get sick from lack of sleep, care or control of your life? No one. So you’re not being selfish, you’re being self-ing; caring for our selves so we may take care of others.
If you struggle with saying “NO,” start by practicing in the mirror. Tell yourself no, until you get comfortable. And then try it out on others. No one is going to get mad at you, and if they do, they have their own “stuff” to figure out. Be empowered enough to know you have the right to live and care for your OWN needs.
Cheers and Blessings! (AND HOORAY FOR FALL BEING NEAR!)