Free Yourself by Learning How to Say “No”
Posted by Kseniya Skrabovskaya
We are all busy, at times stressed out, and occasionally extremely close to losing our minds. We tend to begin engaging in creative procrastination just to get ourselves some breathing room and eventually end up even more stressed because the to-do pile didn’t get any lighter. Then the guilt kicks in. Why didn’t I go to the gym yesterday instead of sitting on the couch watching TV? You know I could have made some baked chicken instead of eating Chinese. Why didn’t I do that? Oh man, I wish I wasn’t so tired so I can play tea party with my kids! The list goes on. So, what can we do to prevent guilt, remain sane, and stay a little bit more rested, fit and healthy?
The answer is: learning to prioritize and, above all, learning to say “NO”.
Getting our priorities straight is the first step to breaking free from the endless cycle of being behind. Personally, I am a list person. Every day I sit down and I make a list of things that need to be completed by the end of the next day. I make the same list for every week and for every month. It puts my schedule into perspective. I know exactly how much I can take on and when I can do it without cutting into something that is important to me or my family. The list also prevents me from forgetting to do the small things that end up turning into frustrations and inconveniences (like forgetting to get the dry-cleaning, or picking up some milk at the grocery store). That’s my way, and I know that this may not be the optimal way for everybody. Some may stress out over the list and the sheer amount of things that are on it, others may find it liberating to check things of and see how much was done at the end of the day.
When I was talking to my friend about my prioritization strategy, she commented that she would be completely overwhelmed by the sheer idea of making lists everyday even if they weren’t written down. Her approach to setting priorities involved breaking her time into segments: Self, Family, Work, and Other. I know, some of you are looking at this and wondering what selfish person would put themselves before their family. I asked about that. My friend told me that the wellbeing of her family depends on her and if she is can’t be the “rock” for them, everything else will fall apart which is why she takes care of her health and mental wellbeing first.
Regardless of how you choose to prioritize your life, until you do so, your stress levels will not diminish. Now, I am not saying that through prioritization you will completely get rid of stress. That’s just impossible. However you will significantly decrease the amount of it. It won’t be easy, you will have to choose between things and people who seem equally as important and tasks that seem equally urgent which brings me to my next point.
No one likes to say “No” because no one likes to hear “No”. We, women, are especially guilty of that. We are the caretakers, we nurture and protect, we are the lionesses of our dens and god forbid someone tells us that we can’t do it all. But you know what, ladies? We can’t do it all and the sooner we understand that, the better of we will be.
The first few times you put your foot down and unapologetically say no to something, it will be hard and you will feel guilty, but after a while of staying true to that practice you will notice two things: 1) you feel better about everything that you do because you are not stretched so thin 2) the things you do carry more meaning, the product of your labors is of a better quality which in turn makes you a happier person. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the cycle described above over stressed, unhappy, and unhealthy.
Now, knowing when to say “no” will largely depend on the priorities you set. When you are absolutely sure about what is important in your life, saying “no” becomes easier. And like with any other art form, the longer you practice the art of “No”, the better at it you will become and the more liberated you will feel.
I encourage everyone to take control of their lives and their stress levels because we are not the helpless victims of circumstance. We create our own realities and whether we choose to be miserable and exhausted or happy and motivated, the amount of work that goes into it is the same. Break the cycle, take control, and put your foot down in protest, stand tall and proud because you are strong and capable.