The holiday season is packed with requests for our time, energy, and resources. “Will you help with the class party?” “Could we host Christmas at your house this year?” “Please donate to this worthy cause!” It’s easy to over-commit ourselves when we want to say “yes” or feel we’re expected to say “yes” to many things. We consider the benefit of saying yes to each individual request: pleasing others, feeling like a ‘good parent’, honoring tradition etc. However, we sometimes fail to see the costs of over-committing ourselves. Potential costs include: lack of energy, resentment, stress, suppressed joy, and maybe even an increase in anxiety or depression. These costs are why it’s important to notice our limits and practice saying “no” when needed.
For those who aren’t used to saying “no” to things, it can seem almost impossible. However, it’s a skill that gets easier with practice. Here are a few principles to keep in mind as you seek to implement the boundary of saying no.
- Don’t give an automatic response. Saying “let me think about that” or “I’ll get back to you” gives yourself time to mindfully consider if saying “yes” is truly the best answer.
- Keep the “no” simple. You don’t have to justify your no by explaining all the reasons you can’t or don’t want to do something. If you simply say “sorry, I’m not able to do that this year” most people won’t ask why not. Even when people do ask for an explanation (ahem, family) you don’t owe it to them. Just keep repeating your simple no.
- Be consistent. Let your “no” mean no and your “yes” mean yes and keep your behavior consistent with your words. If you said you weren’t able to attend the party, don’t show up at the last minute because you felt guilty about saying no. When people know we mean what we say, they’re more likely to respect the boundaries we set.
Many people feel mean when they start implementing the boundary of saying “no.” However, boundaries are often kind. Saying “no” is kind to yourself because it allows you to take care of yourself by investing your time and energy in things that are life-giving rather than draining. Boundaries are kind to others because people know they can trust our word. Others don’t have to be afraid to ask things of us because they know we’ll say “no” if we cannot handle it. And, when we say “yes” others know we are genuinely invested and not secretly resentful that they’re asking too much.
Saying “no” isn’t always easy. But, when we start to feel stretched too thin it’s worth a few potentially-awkward interactions to protect our time, energy, and ultimately our mental health by implementing healthy boundaries.
Want to know more about boundaries or are you struggling with your mental health symptoms this time of year? Water’s Edge CHC has the knowledge & expertise to come alongside you to improve your over all well-being.