No. (Now, doesn’t that feel better?)

I couldn’t say no to anyone until I learned ways to keep a healthy balance.

#WellnessWednesday #Godlovesacheerfulgiver #Politepass

When I saw my friend walking toward me, my stomach started to churn. I knew she was going to ask me to help out with the church event that coming weekend. Any other week, I would have been willing, but this week it seemed like everyone wanted my time. My boss asked if I could stay late to prepare for a project; my classmates wanted to use lunchtime to work on our presentation, and my family was planning a day trip down to the city. With all of these obligations, I barely had time to catch my breath.

Yet I couldn’t seem to say no to anyone. Every time someone asked me for more of my time, I agreed. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone by being selfish with my time. But the more I said yes, the less willing I felt. Slowly but surely, my generosity was burning me out.

Our time is one of our most valuable resources. However, it is not limitless. We may overbook ourselves because we like feeling useful, or we feel guilty saying no, or we don’t want to let anyone down. Often we give our time for good reasons; the problem occurs when we give too much of our time and have none left for ourselves.

Prescription for the Habitual Yes-Folk

 

If you have trouble saying no when people ask you to give time you don’t have, try the following steps.

1. Remember that saying no isn’t necessarily selfish.

One individual cannot do it all. In fact, when you try to do everything that life offers, you can’t give your best to anything. It is not selfish to set boundaries on your time or resources. When you give, you should do it willingly, not out of a sense of obligation or a fear of being seen as selfish. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” If you are feeling so worn out that giving your time feels like a burden, that may be a sign that you need to rethink your schedule.

2. Decide what is most important to you.

Since you can’t do it all, you have to choose which things are most important to you. Make a list of everything you have on your plate and mark just the few that are the most valuable to you. According to Dr. Tchiki Davis of the Berkeley Well-Being Institute, your priorities list doesn’t need to be shared with anyone. “Try not to feel guilty or worry about what anyone else thinks,” she says. “Just focus on what’s really important to you. But keep in mind that your priorities can change over time, and that’s OK too.”

3. Set boundaries with yourself.

It can be tempting to feel that everything you’re involved in is equally important. That may be true, but you still can’t do it all. Think about which obligations are most in line with your personal gifts and which give you the most sense of fulfillment. As you budget your time, make sure you reserve enough for personal relaxation, hobbies, and social time. Without rest and recovery, you will continue to burn out.

4. Practice saying no to small things with respectful people.

Saying no can be frightening at first, so practice asserting yourself on small things with safe people. Perhaps an understanding colleague asks you to spend your lunch break with them, but you really need a quiet moment to yourself. Or maybe a friend in a different time zone asks you to stay up late to call them—the night before a big meeting. These are perfect opportunities to practice setting boundaries on your time with people who will respect them. In their book Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend advise that rebuilding boundaries is like recovering from an injury.

“When you recover from a physical injury you do not pick up the heaviest weight first. You build up to the heavy stuff. Look at [practicing boundary skills] as you would physical therapy.”

It’s OK to take it slow!

 

5. Say no clearly.

As you begin saying no to bigger things, it can be tempting to soften a no by saying “I’ll think about it” or “Maybe.” But if you have no intention of doing something, it is kinder to say no plainly, and not leave people guessing about whether or not you will follow through. “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’” says Matthew 5:37 (NKJV). Expressing yourself clearly in the moment can save you the trouble of miscommunications down the road.

Some sample phrases you can use are:

  • “Unfortunately, that won’t fit into my current schedule.”
  • “Thank you for asking me, but I’ll have to say no this time.”
  • “No, thank you. I’m really busy with . . .”
  • “No, I need to . . . Thank you for understanding!”
  • “That sounds like fun, but I won’t be able to make it. I hope you have a good time.”

 

6. Remember, you are responsible for only your own behavior.

A lot of the guilt that can come with setting boundaries happens because we don’t want to make other people feel hurt. But we can never control what other people feel. Everyone is responsible for themselves. Drs. Cloud and Townsend write, “Do not let an out-of-control person be the cue for you to change your course. Just allow him to be angry and decide for yourself what you need to do.” If you say no kindly and others react badly, it is a reflection on them, not you. Remember that you can’t manage their behavior for them.

7. Reassess your relationships.

When you begin consistently saying no, people may need a bit of time to adjust to the new you. But if they continue to push back on your boundaries, you may need to distance yourself from them. Healthy relationships have room for no.

 

More from Annika Cambigue

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