Yes to You: The Life-Changing Power of Saying No
Theresa Polley
January 11, 2022
August 16, 2023
Self Care

I believe in saying yes to new opportunities, but I've found if I say yes to every possibility that comes my way, without evaluating it first, I tend to overcommit myself. I realized in order to say yes to what truly brings me joy, I have to say no to everything else.

That's the thing about yes. Once you say yes to that extra project at work, yes to the volunteer commitment at school or yes to helping out a neighbor, you become the automatic go-to when help is needed. I know this from personal experience. Many times it's more important to step back, than to step up.

More is More and Usually Too Much

In this day and age we're expected to do more... more, more, more! We can stop the madness by saying no. When you're constantly striving to be the best version of yourself, every year you set the bar a little bit higher. There’s the implication if I do more, if I keep striving to some unattainable goal, I will somehow be a better person. I firmly say no to that.

Saying no can be the ultimate self-care. ~ Claudia Black

First Things First: When and How to Say No

If you find yourself overcommitting and never saying "no," take some time to reflect on the following:

  • Know your boundaries. Spend time asking yourself what's most important to you (hint: it can't be everything).
  • Prioritize your commitments. Look at what you already have on your plate/mind/calendar and prioritize what is most important to you.
  • Allow for changes in priorities. As we grow, our priorities change – and that's okay!
  • Examine why you feel the need to rationalize. Does this person or commitment make you feel like you "have to" say yes? There's a good chance this person or commitment may no longer be working for you.

Saying "no" is uncomfortable, but we don't want to avoid temporary discomfort for our own long-term benefit. While it may seem like the "nice" or "right" thing to do, it is not your responsibility to manage the feelings of others – that's their responsibility. Here are some examples of when you actually want to say no:

  • You feel obligated to.
  • You feel guilty if you don't.
  • Because it's expected of you.
  • You're afraid to say no.

If you're uncomfortable with saying no, you're not alone. Here are a few variations for you to choose from:

  • Firmly: "I'm unable to go."
  • Direct: "Thank you for thinking of me, but I can't take that on right now."
  • Simple: "No" (No is a complete sentence.)

When you say no, it's important to keep it simple. Avoid explaining why (your excuse or rationalization) to the person you're saying "no" to.

The power of no is especially profound when you're already struggling to keep up. Say no to what drains your time, energy and resources; then say yes to what makes your heart sing. Say yes to you.

Why Say No

A few years ago, I read “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" by Greg McKeown. The author makes the point if one continues to say yes to everything without discernment, life begins to spiral out of control. Does that sound familiar?

My favorite concept, “if it’s not a clear yes, it’s a no," changed my life. To me, it made the process of discernment much simpler. Many times I've been asked to do this or help with that and my first thought was "maybe." That is definitely a no, because it's not a clear yes. A clear yes is something that makes your heart sing with joy! It made it easier to decipher what I was really excited to do and what I was doing out of obligation.

Sometimes we feel bad saying no, so we let things get out of control. Practice small nos, until you feel comfortable saying no to big things. No to "I can't go on a second date with you" is easier than no "I can't marry you."

After You Say No - More Ways to Take Care of You

Now that you have all that extra time because you said "no," here are some great ways to take care of yourself:

Sleep - Sleep is the best thing you can do for your immune system. Either go to bed earlier or stay in bed later. Your body needs plenty of rest to repair damages to tissues and your brain needs the rest. Deep sleep is keyto maintain optimal emotional and social functioning.
Read more: How Lack of Sleep Affects the Brain

Eat Three Meals a Day - Eat warming foods such as soups, stews, and roasted root vegetables. Drink warm liquids. Eliminate the ice in your beverages (ice cold drinks and foods make you feel cold!) Use spices such as cinnamon, cayenne and cumin. Avoid processed foods and sugar. Eat more vegetables. (Nina and I like to start our work days off with a breakfast full of veggies - a little arugula and cherry tomato salad next to sauteed veggies topped with poached eggs, and some avocado toast. All drizzled with a touch of olive oil. Yum!)
Read more: 40 Unexpected Ways to Add Veggies to a Meal

Take Time to Exercise - Take your dog for a walk, go to your gym or yoga studio, or take walking breaks at work - physical movement keeps blood circulating and increases body temperature and is key for physical, mental and emotional health. Start small - keep Pranaa (the Ayurvedic term for your body’s vital energy) flowing by incorporating short walks into your busy workday, picking a parking spot that’s further away or using the stairs instead of the elevator. Get creative and get moving!
Read more: When Everyday Activities Count as Exercise

Find Some Time to Be Alone - In order to get in tune with your physical, mental and emotional state it’s essential to take time to be with yourself. Start by setting aside 20 minutes (or 5 if that’s where you need to start) to unplug and reset your own operating system by turning off all your devices. Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, find a quiet spot (maybe outside if the weather is nice or by a window if it's not - to allow yourself all of the benefits of the sunshine), and bring a journal if you like. Find something to fix your eyes on and let your mind go. Take note of the things that surprise you, scare you, or soothe you. Let yourself be - without judgement or expectation - and observe yourself. As you get more comfortable, increase the time and frequency of your alone time. Then, when you feel like you need it - take it.
Read more: Why You Can’t Stand to Be Alone -- And How to Learn to Love It

Once you realize how good it feels to eliminate the unnecessary and embrace what nourishes you, you’ll wonder what took you so long.

This blog is intended to provide helpful suggestions for self care and overall well-being. I am not a mental health professional. If you’re struggling I encourage you to seek the help of a professional. Find a Mental Health Professional | National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988

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Theresa Polley

Theresa believes ALL women have the right to live life on their own terms. In 2004, she created Retreat in the Pines to give women a safe space to be their authentic selves without apology while finding the healing and renewal they deserve.

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