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  • Carol Aranos

Learning to Say NO Saved My Health

Woman juggling work, home and self care as she learns to say no to improve her health by Carol, Health Coach at Essential Joy Wellness Camp Hill PA

Many years ago, a single book changed the viewpoint of my life: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No. At the time, I was struggling to manage a healthy work/life balance and family obligations. The combination was causing me anxiety and exhaustion as I faced a no-win tug of war. Learning to say no gave me the ability to focus on my priorities and renew my control over time.

You might be wrestling with something similar or asking yourself – How do I balance personal health while managing relationships, responsibilities, and self-care – WITHOUT feeling guilty?

I believe the solution starts with an assessment of the delicate dance between your priorities, time and a very simple word – no.

Set Guideposts

We all have priorities that we can use as guideposts to shape our lives but more importantly, our time. Life is busy, but I urge you to take five minutes to complete the following:

  1. Write down all of things that are important to you. Don’t think too hard about it – just write – nothing is too big or too small. Your list could include anything from family to your Starbucks coffee.

  2. Rank your list in order of importance from most to least. As you consider the position, evaluate your values, goals, and dreams.

  3. Your guideposts will be the top 4-6 on the list.

Streamline your Calendar

We have to look at where we’ve been to determine where we want to go. We can’t fix what we don’t know is broken.

For one week, track all of your actions to reveal how you are devoting your time. Use your calendar or a sheet of paper to jot down your tasks and the amount of time spent on each throughout the day. This practice might seem overwhelming but it will shed tremendous light on how you are spending time. Quick tip: keep track as you go throughout the day because you won’t remember the details at the end of the day.

As you evaluate the total time spent on each activity match it back to your guideposts and see if they align. If not, you’ll have insight into where you can make adjustments and how to allocate your time in the future. Most importantly, making these changes will free up time on a daily or weekly basis to do the things that are most important to you.

Evaluate Opportunities

Each day reveals new opportunities and we have the option to choose whether or not we participate. As you consider whether it is a Yes or No, here are some quick easy questions to ask yourself:

  • Does it fit within my guideposts?

  • Will it distract me from that which is most important to me?

  • Will it bring me joy?

  • Will the activity make me feel alive?

If you cannot wholeheartedly say yes to each and every one of these questions, then No is the best answer.

How about a quick example? You are asked to sit on a volunteer committee that meets one Saturday a month for two hours. While you love the mission of the non-profit and the time commitment isn’t great, you realize that you would miss your child’s sports activities. Your children are your highest guidepost so you decide to say no.

Eliminate Guilt

While the example above is basic, we all have limited time! Many of us attempt too much and struggle to keep all of the balls in the air, which is simply not possible. As we feel ourselves being pulled in every direction, the result is stress and anxiety leading to poor health.

Using the simple evaluation tool above, will help you reduce stress as you easily assess what stays, what goes, and what to do with the new opportunities being presented to you each day.

Saying no is not as difficult as you might think. Here are a few quick thoughts:

  • Don’t respond immediately - ask for time to consider the opportunity

  • Thank the person for the opportunity and for thinking so highly of you

  • Remember that people will respect you if you explain that you have other priorities

  • Pat yourself on the back for staying within your guideposts

  • Go do what gives you joy

I am grateful that someone shared this book with me so many years ago and taught me to evaluate my opportunities, taught me when to say yes and how to say no. It saved my health and it will save yours too.