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Reducing Stress by Saying No: How and When to Say No

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If you are finding yourself stressed because you have too much going on all the time, you may need to start saying no sometimes.

Saying no when someone requests your time and energy can be difficult. After all, you want to help everyone in your life, be there for them, and attend every fun outing as much as you can. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Using your unique skills to help someone out can be empowering and stress-reducing on its own. The problem comes when you are spending too much time helping others, and you become stressed trying to fit meeting your own needs into your schedule.

How to Decide Whether to Say No

You are worth it!

So you’ve determined that you need to say no more. That’s great, but should you just say no to everyone and everything?

Well, the answer to that is: maybe, but maybe not. Here are some guidelines to help you think about when you should say no to a request:

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  • Don’t respond right away. Whatever you do, don’t say yes immediately upon being asked to attend or do something. It can be tempting to do so, especially if it’s something that sounds like a fun thing to do. However, saying yes right away and then realizing you’re overbooked or that you really need the time for something for yourself can cause stress. Instead, say that you will get back with the requestor, and take some time to think it through.
  • Consider your motivations. When thinking about the request, consider why you would be agreeing to it. If the motivation is guilt or a sense of obligation rather than a true desire to do the task or go to the event, say no.
  • Realistically look at your schedule. Take an honest look at your obligations, including self-care time, and evaluate whether you can comfortably fit in this request. If you feel like your time would be crunched and you would be stressed, say no.

If you are not already using a planner, doing so will make it much easier for you to evaluate and respond to request for time. You can learn more here: “How to Use a Planner to Decrease Stress.”

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How to Actually Say No

Now that you’ve decided it will be best for you to decline a request, how can you go about doing it in a tactful, caring way?

  • First, just say no. Don’t leave an opening for the requestor to present you with reasons to comply by using a wishy-washy statement like “I don’t think so.” Use the word no and say it firmly.
  • Give a quick, concise reason. Don’t feel the need to dive into a long, drawn-out explanation, but do give the requestor a brief reason for why you can’t comply. An example would be, “I’m swamped with another project this week.” Be honest, too; you don’t want to get caught in a lie later on.
  • Stick to your guns. The requestor may try to talk you into changing your no to a yes. He or she may even try to use guilt. Be prepared to repeat your no as many times as it takes.

If you are a chronic yes responder, saying no will be a little uncomfortable for you at first. Be assured that it will get easier with time, and the decreased stress in your life will be more than worth it.

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