‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’. It sounds comical, but has the ethos of this statement crept its way into your life? Does the word ‘workaholic’ feel familiar? In our society where constant attention, activity and engagement is demanded, saying ‘yes’ has become an impulse reaction. Our identities and satisfaction lie in our ability to be productive. Take a moment to think about this; what do you say in response to the question ‘How was your day?’. My answer often sounds something like, ‘yeah good, I got heaps done, I …[list completed tasks here], or alternatively I may reply ‘ugh, not great, I haven’t finished anything on my list’. Sound familiar? It may feel counter-intuitive but learning how to say ‘no’ is vital for our emotional, physical and mental health.
Why is it important to rest?
We often intend to rest ‘someday soon’, but that day never arrives. I’ve found that I, like most of us modest, hard-working Australians, I have been suffering a form of mental fatigue. Mental fatigue comes from being constantly ‘on-task’ and causes us to be less, rather than more, productive. It steers the body towards stress reactions, fatigue and general low mood.
Every system in our body, including our ability to implement self-control, be it emotional or in terms of restraint, cannot operate unceasingly. This mental ability gets depleted and needs replenishing. That is why taking time to rest is so important for our holistic health and wellbeing.
When should I say ‘no’?
As a ‘yes’ person, learning to say ‘no’ has been a difficult thing to do. Learning to say ‘no’ requires well defined goals and the capacity to set priorities. The following four steps are a good way to start along the path towards a more balanced life by learning when to say ‘no’.
- Start by scheduling in some time for reflection – get that diary out!. This will allow you time to clarify what is important in your life, define your goals and identify what needs to be done on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis. Then you will be able to recognise what can be left out.
- Isolate and pinpoint the clutter in your life and throw it out. Don’t waste your valuable time on tasks that are unimportant, that are not moving you towards your goals.
- Reassess commitments you have been loyal to for a long time – are they still relevant to you? Are you simply doing them to please others? They may be taking up time that you could redirect.
- Schedule in regular ‘down time’. This is time where you unplug, disengage from work, put your to-do list and household chores to the side and rest.
What does resting look like for you?
We are all unique, and each of us rests in a different way. It could be gardening, yoga, getting a massage, hiking, baking, spending time with your children or your friends or literally napping. For me it’s massage, painting my nails or doing some exercise. It doesn’t matter how you choose to rest, what it important is that you choose an endeavour that relieves stress (rather than contributes to it). Choose something that is restorative to your mind, body and spirit.
How do I say no without being rude?
First things first, saying ‘no’ does not equate to being rude. Saying ‘no’ to prioritise rest and self-care is not selfish. If you are not taking time to look after yourself you are not going to have the ability to care for anyone else.
When you say ‘no’ it is critical that you are firm, that you leave no room for ambiguity. Responding with phrases such as ‘Oh I’d love to but it’s a bit difficult because…’ or ‘That sounds like a really wonderful idea. I’ll just need to think and get back to you….’, although they feel easier to deliver at the time of a request, they actually create a continuing mental decision process. This can lead to stress and guilt for you and confusion on the part of the person requesting your time. So, the moment has come to practice your assertive voice. Are you ready? Pause and take a moment now to try it out loud. Practice makes perfect. One, two, three – ‘No, I can’t help with that, I’m sorry ’. Did you sound resolved in the decision? Did you convince yourself? If not then give it another go.
Three things that I am learning to say ‘no’ to in order to prioritise time to rest
- Large group gatherings where I don’t actually get to catch up with anyone. I prefer smaller social events where I have time to really connect with close friends.
- Anything that comes up on a Friday night. Friday nights are my night for me, at home, with my family, to do whatever we need to do to relax. I make a point to ignore all the chores, especially the washing. I might simply enjoy a slow cup of tea while I listen to music, paint my nails while Reis watches the footy, or read a book. Sometimes I pamper myself with an at home facial, or write in my journal.
- Business partnerships that are not aligned with my core values, even when they offer a better pay cheque or glitzy events.
How about you? What things do you need to learn to say no to? Flick me an email or leave a comment on this post – I’d love to hear from you!