Learning to Say "No" for Your Emotional Health & Well-Being

As caregivers it's hard to say no to the people we have always said yes to. Learning to say no, and to take good care of our own emotional well-being, takes practice.  

While many of us have discovered that helping others is one of the best parts of life, learning how to say no when you’re overburdened (or getting there) is a great self-care tool that you can learn.

You’ve no doubt encountered times when agreeing to do a favor made you unable to complete your own task or took time away from taking care of yourself (missing a doctor’s appointment, skipping meals, or not getting enough sleep are some examples). Still, we all face fears about saying no—fears about hurting feelings and being disliked. And some of us have never learned how to say no based on our childhoods or roles growing up.

Here are a few techniques to help you say no when you absolutely have to. Doing so requires you to recognize when you’re overloaded with things to do, learn some quick techniques that will help you decline in certain situations, and practice actually saying no.

Top Tips for Saying No
  • Keep your response simple. If you want to say no, be firm and direct. Use phrases such as “Thanks for coming to me but I’m afraid it’s not convenient right now” or “I’m sorry but I can’t help this evening.” Try to be strong in your body language and don’t over-apologize. Remember, you’re not asking permission to say no.
  • Buy yourself some time. Interrupt the ‘yes’ cycle, using phrases like “I’ll get back to you,” then consider your options. Having thought it through at your leisure, you’ll be able to say no with greater confidence.
  • Consider a compromise. Only do so if you want to agree with the request, but have limited time or ability to do so. Suggest ways forward to suit both of you. Avoid compromising if you really want or need to say no.
  • Separate refusal from rejection. Remember you’re turning down a request, not a person. People usually will understand that it is your right to say no, just as it is their right to ask the favor.
  • Don’t feel guilty for saying no to your children. It is important for them to hear no from time to time so that they develop a sense of self-control. It is hard to negotiate adult life without this important skill. Rather than cave in to their protests, let them know who is in charge by setting boundaries.
  • Be true to yourself. Be clear and honest with yourself about what you truly want. Get to know yourself better and examine what you really want from life.

Saying no is hard for a reason. Most of us want to help every time we’re asked; we want to feel that we’re the kind of person whom others can rely on; and we want to make a difference. But if saying yes imposes on your self-care—if you’re unable to complete your work, if your health is failing because of all the times you do favors— then you need to reflect on the art of saying no—and learn to do it gracefully, using some of these techniques. 

*The information in this blog is for informational purposes only, Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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