Care for yourself at least as well as you care for your cell phone. Plug into a source that restores you every day. People need to be recharged, too.
Why does it feel so hard to say no? Some common reasons are:
- It makes me feel strong, proud and important when others turn to me.
- I am afraid of starting a conflict or hurting the other person’s feelings if I say no.
- I worry that I might lose the relationship if I say no.
- I am embarrassed to say I don’t have the money if I can’t afford to lend it.
- I don’t feel like I have the right to refuse.
- I want to help.
- I always say yes, I can’t just start saying no now.
- I feel guilty when I say no.
If any of those reasons sounds like you, here are some suggestions for learning to say no.
- Practice letting yourself feel uncomfortable. Saying yes to someone else only because you feel guilty is a way of saying no to yourself, your goals and your needs.
- Establish short and long-term goals that you share with others. If no is not yet a complete sentence for you, it may be easier to refuse with a reason that points to your goals so it is clear you are being purposeful rather than mean.
- Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. For example, I can’t loan you money but I can help you brainstorm alternative solutions or explore other resources.
- Especially if you feel pressured, delay your response until you’ve had a chance to review the situation.
- Remember that you don’t have to rescue or save everyone all the time. Sometimes, deciding why your needs are important is the priority.
- Offer a compassionate no. Acknowledge the need and express regret that you are unable to help in the way requested.
- Remind yourself that your value lies not in what you are able to do for someone or give to someone. You are valuable just because you are you.
About self help
Whether you are completing exercises in a workbook, reading the latest self-help book or article, or organizing a peer counseling/support group (may also be called a sister circle), you are engaging in self-help strategies. Self-help is a powerful emotional health tool because it requires an active, ongoing choice to face and work through challenges you are facing. Choosing self-help is like saying to a problem or challenge, I am still in charge of my life.
Take Action! Set up your own sister circle
Choose 2 or 3 other women and decide together what your circle will be like. Some ideas to discuss:
- Shared values around confidentiality and trust
- Meetings (when, how often, where, how long)
- Group goals (will your circle focus on a particular topic or problem like getting out of debt, parenting, or will it be more general)
- Expected commitment(s) from group members, etc.
You may need to revisit the values conversation periodically until you find just the right group groove. Sister circles are a great way to invest in your well-being, be accountable for your choices and goals as well as be heard.
Why not give it a try?
As promised, eight more self-care tips for protecting your emotional health:
- Decide that there is no real value in always putting yourself last. In fact, it is important to sometimes put yourself first, even if you are a parent.
- Know it is okay to expect happiness in your daily life. Look for small pleasures you can be grateful for and relish throughout each day.
- Rest your mind. Spend time regularly in meditation, prayer or silence. Commit to this practice even if your life is very busy or doing so feels strange. You may even be surprised to find that you feel calmer, more productive and focused. Start simply by taking three or four deep breaths each time you visit the bathroom. Or you might set your alarm clock ten minutes earlier every morning to pray or meditate.
- Avoid people, places, media and situations that leave you feeling bad or drained. Protecting your time and space is one of the most important ways to practice self-care.
- Set up and honor personal boundaries. Yes, you can say “no” sometimes without bringing the world to an end.
- Be deliberate. Do things that don’t contradict what you say is important to you.
- Give yourself a break. The next time that voice in your head starts bad-mouthing you or putting you down, tell it to STOP. Choose an affirmation and repeat it for calm and comfort.
- Keep a journal, sing, color, dance, create…
Take Action Challenge: How will you practice self-care?
Tomorrow…the next building block for protecting your emotional health – support.
The September issue of Yoga Journal cites a recent study that points the way to calm, even for those with a crowded schedule. In that issue, Yelena Moroz Alpert reports the International Journal of Yoga found you don’t need a whole hour of yoga to enjoy the benefits. According to researchers, self-described high stress study participants said they felt more calm and focused at the end of two weeks of sun-salutation for 20 minutes. They also said they felt less worry and more joy.
Why not give it a try? The key is to slow down and place awareness on your body in the moment. You can benefit from yoga even if you can’t bend and stretch like a rubber band – so no excuses. You don’t have to be able to touch your toes to boost your mood with yoga, you just need an open mind.
Women are often urged to look everywhere except within for comfort, centering, love and self-care thus reinforcing the idea that we don’t have what it takes to restore, heal or encourage ourselves. We do. We just have to find the strategies and connections that work for us. Consider combining community services and support with your own internal resources for a self care plan that you can build, direct and own. Here are a couple of strategies to try.
- Cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT), Mindfulness and Meditation Practice – learning to observe your feelings as they come up can make not identifying with them or not letting them lead you astray feel easier.
- Exercise and yoga (can be as effective as antidepressants) are good ways of claiming and using “me” time.
- Sister Circles – join with other women to harness the power of community caring, concern, accountability and support. Choose women that are emotionally healthy enough to support you in ways that are meaningful, and meet at least once monthly. Be sure to establish important group rules, for example – you may agree that members must observe confidentiality and agree to disagree respectfully.
- Journaling – Use the pages to explore your truths, values, fears and hopes.
- Counseling – Regard your therapist as a partner. You can choose the right one for you and fire therapists that are not a good fit. You don’t have to accept just anyone