This morning in class, my instructor took one look at my sleep-deprived, makeup-less face and asked how I was doing. Something in me instantly broke, and I bawled. I literally lost my shit, out of no where. I totally didn’t see it coming.

Ugh, it’s been a long week.

Oh wait, it’s not even Tuesday yet…

I am willing to bet that I am not alone when I state that I am currently feeling very overwhelmed in life. Ever feel so out of control that you just randomly break out in a puddle of tears? Been there, done that, sister. And let me tell you, that’s a normal, healthy coping mechanism. But it still doesn’t fix the problem, now, does it…

With my fast-paced grad program, my new job, my internship, and wedding planning, I’ve been totally stretched thin lately. I’ve been finding that with each passing day, I’m impatient, irritable, negative, and quite frankly, not the most pleasant person to be around. In fact, this past weekend my fiancé was venting to me about his stressful day and I completely tuned him out because I did not want to add onto the heavy weight that I was already carrying with me. God, I’m such a horrible, self-centered person, I thought. I didn’t even have the energy to listen to his problems because I was so self-absorbed in my own.

Something has got to give, I reflected. This busy, crazed lifestyle is making me a negative, soul-sucking downer who is miserable to be around. Even I haven’t recognized myself lately. I’m pushing myself so hard to the core that I’m crashing and burning, literally breaking my back to keep up with the demands of society while accompanying everyone else’s needs….but my own.

Learning to Say No

I’ve always been a huge advocate for self- care, but I’ve been finding lately that it is so damn hard to make time for myself when there is so much going on. During class this week, my instructor asked us each individually to state one thing we wanted to be mindful of this upcoming week. We all went around in a circle and shared our weekly intention. My intention for this week was to take time to enjoy the crisp fall weather over the weekend, even if it was only for 10 minutes, and to muster up the courage to say no to others.

And boy, did I have my share of opportunities to exercise this challenge.

Saying “no” has been an on-going challenge for me my ENTIRE life. I have always put others’ needs before my own; I am indeed a people-pleaser. I hate the feeling of letting down others and feel like I need to do what everyone else wants in order to be liked. Yes, I’ll admit it. I just want people to like me. Don’t we all.

The first opportunity presented itself just a day later when I was asked through work to commit to something. I anxiously stated that as much as I love helping out, I was feeling really swamped with school, and could not commit.

It was in that moment that I became mindful of how HARD it was for me to state what I need. The guilt of saying “no” was practically more anxiety-inducing than the thought of trying to fit someone else’s need in my busy schedule. As soon as I stated my needs, I felt a rush of panic. OMG everyone is going to think I’m not committed! What have I done!

Once I mustered up the courage to say no, I realized the repercussions weren’t so bad. See! That wasn’t so hard, was it? So why do I constantly put myself through the wringer and dread saying no to others? Literally, my anxiety even thinking about saying “no” is so bad that it makes me nauseous.

Saying “no” goes beyond work-related commitments. I also exercised the commitment to myself this week by saying “no” when asked to fill a leadership position. Again, I immediately noticed my associated feelings of guilt and had to reassure myself that ultimately, saying no was in my best interest.

The world will keep spinning if I say “no” once in awhile. 

Friends, learning how to say “no” is nothing short of easy, but I can state with confidence that it gets better with practice. There are so many feelings associated with it, mostly feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety. Each time you exercise your right to say “no,” you are growing mentally tougher. Saying “no” is a crucial form of self-care. In order to be the best version of ourselves for others, we need to ultimately take care of ourselves first. For instance, how can I be an effective counselor and help others if I am constantly stressed, anxious and worn out?

To follow up on my other weekly intention, indeed, I did go for a walk this weekend, and it was wonderful. My fiancé and I visited the pumpkin patch, and I was able to savor a hot cup of apple cider while enjoying the beautiful changing leaves.

I learned this week that self-care does not have to be time-consuming. It merely can be in the form of small acts such as saying no, or taking a breath of fresh air.

Talk to me. In what areas do you struggle with saying “no”? How have you been practicing self-care lately? Leave me a comment below!

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