Life can seem pretty overwhelming, can’t it? A bottomless ‘to do’ list, deadlines, work, household chores, family responsibilities, admin, social engagements…It can feel like we’re in a constant battle with time. With so much to crack on with, self-care falls to the bottom of the list and, for many people, never gets a look in at all.

People often tell me, for example, that they’d love to try a yoga class… but that they couldn’t possibly justify taking the time. An hour a week spent stretching and breathing seems to them shamefully indulgent and a dereliction of their normal duties.

But stop to think for a second… if you don’t take steps to make sure you’re well and energised, how can you take care of other people? When we stretch ourselves too thinly, we’re not helping anyone. Plus, there’s a price to be paid for charging round in a permanent state of harassment. Our bodies simply aren’t designed to operate in constant stress mode and it wears down our defences, causing inflammation and making us susceptible to a host of chronic health problems.

The fact is that scheduling yourself some ‘me time’ is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Taking time out from the whirlwind of doing means we can get in touch with ourselves, realign and recalibrate.

Saying “no” is something that many of us are deeply uncomfortable with (particularly, I have to say, women, who are very often natural people-pleasers). We live in a culture that respects busyness. We’re in awe of people who seem like they do it all. And we’re loathe to say “no” because we’re terrified of appearing rude or making anyone think less of us. And so we say “yes”, “no problem”, “leave it with me”, “of course”, rather than being realistic about our time commitments. The result? Burnout, resentment, frustration, exhaustion, illness. And that doesn’t help you or anyone else in the long-run.

Learning to say “no” with grace, integrity and confidence is one of the most important skills you can learn. Far better, and healthier, to ditch the endless quest to be liked and aim instead to be true to yourself. You might feel a little guilty at first, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it once you realise the power of “no”.

Here are a few pointers to help you be at peace with saying “no”.

It’s about how you say “no”

Let’s be clear: saying “no” doesn’t equate to being rude and unhelpful. Practise using these sorts of phrases to get comfortable with declining to do something in a respectful, succinct way. Don’t fall into the trap of waffling on, backtracking, sweating, wringing your hands and apologising strenuously. You can simultaneously set boundaries and be helpful. Aim to help the person who approached you by offering an alternative or help at a later date.

  • “Now’s not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. How about we get together at X time?”
  • “Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.”
  • “I’m not the best person to help on this. I’d suggest you try X?”
  • “I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.”

You will never, ever be able please everyone

If there are people who will get hacked off with you if you need to say “no” to something, let them. Your true friends will understand. It’s simply a fact that you will never be able to please everybody in the world.

It’s OK to feel left out sometimes

We all say “yes” for fear of being left out occasionally. But be sure to think things through before over-committing, even if the opportunity may not come around again. Revisit your priorities, your energy and evaluate how or if this experience will benefit your life. If it’s really not worth it, let it go.

Saying “no” creates space for us to say “yes” to what we do want

When we follow our gut instincts, we create the space to find out what we do actually want to do with our time and energy. Remember you have a choice: unless it lights you up, don’t do it. Each day, commit to doing a little less of what you don’t want to do… and a little more of what you do want to do.

What can you say “no” to today?

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