SCW: Saying No

By Gaithri Raj, who writes about self-care and wellness for GGTW’s Self-Care Wednesday (#SCW) blog post series.

We’ve heard this over and over again: “Just say No” to commitments, projects or events to help reprioritize and reclaim your time.  Sure, that sounds easy to stick on a button and wear it with pride, but as a generation that places a value on online social capital, those Instagrammable moments may cause you to overcommit and make saying no a difficult process.

In fact, Dorit Alt, PhD shows in her research that people with a high online presence are more prone to experience FoMO (the Fear of Missing Out) than people with a smaller online presence, and that increased their acceptance of invitations to events they otherwise would not attend. So take a moment to think about how important that event really is, and whether your motivation to attend is based on a true desire to take part or on the urge to post the perfect photo to social media.

Saying No isn’t just for social events, either! It’s good to practice saying No in your professional life as well. Whether you work 9-5, freelance, or participate in the gig economy, you are constantly making decisions throughout your workday, and decision fatigue can sometimes cause you to make bad or simply uninformed, rushed decisions. This tends to happen typically later in your work day. So, when you’re presented with the opportunity to join a new initiative, project or pilot study, STOP, ask questions and think carefully before you decide if you will commit to it. Overcommitment can prevent you from doing your best and lead to burnout, so take the time to weigh out the possible consequences of that big ask.

Woman with lights.
Overcommitment can lead to burnout, not doing your best, and even health problems.

I’m not here to tell you that saying no is easy. It can be difficult to explain to another person what your priorities are, much less expect them to agree with you!  Consider the energy you might have to extend to explain why you might prefer going for a massage instead of attending a happy hour in a loud bar after a long day. So rather than doing that, maybe just letting others know that you didn’t make your decision without thinking it through first will be enough of an explanation.

And let’s be honest. Most of us feel awful, like we’re being a bad <insert friend, sibling, partner, team member, etc.> by not being there. Mix in a little guilt and a dash of FoMO, and you’ve got the perfect cocktail of negative reinforcement for this positive thing we’re supposed to do to care for ourselves.

One of the things I do that helps make saying no easier is to designate one weekend a month as my stay-at-home time. It’s the one weekend when I avoid going out so I can catch up on everything I am behind on or to simply enjoy being home. For me, saying, “Oh no! That get-together happens on my stay-home weekend for the month” is easier than trying to go into a longer explanation for why I’m taking time for myself. And again, in all honesty, I occasionally break this rule and go out instead of staying home.  Sometimes my family and friends are worth being exhausted over. Other times, not so much. See? I’m still practicing saying no!

Here’s one last thing to keep in mind at this time of year. It is really easy to overcommit, with all the family gatherings, work parties, and end-of-year festivities, on top of your already hurried life. Make sure you prioritize the things that are important to you so you can do those. Then, make time for some of the other things.

Make a point to build a foundation of practicing self-care and then keep practicing! And if you already have successful strategies for saying no, share them with the GGTW community by posting them in the comments below or dropping us a line through our contact page!

Saying no takes a lot of practice.
Strategize ways to say no that work for you.

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