You’re stressed. You’re frazzled. You’re exhausted. Does this sound like you? Honestly, this description probably fits most of the people reading this article. Do you make up reasons for why you feel like that? Or should I say, excuses? Everyone feels like they are a victim of their hectic and busy life. But guess what? You are in control. You have the power to design your life exactly the way you want it to be. You just need to learn how to say ‘no’ so you can achieve more balance and inner peace in your life. Here are some ideas for you:

1. Don’t Worry About What Other People Think of You.

Let’s face it. Most people are worried about “public perception.” But why? Why do you feel the need to live up to other people’s expectations? Are they living your life? No. You are! Don’t worry whether they think you’re not on the top of your game, or that your kids aren’t perfect, or that you look selfish. All you need to worry about is what you think of you.

2. Before You Accept Any Invitations, Make Sure You Really Want to Go.

Maybe your second cousin invited you to her son’s big 16th birthday bash. Or your “energy vampire” friend needs more advice about her toxic relationship. Stop and think about whether you actually want to commit to these things. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. But the point here is that you need to only accept invitations that make you happy and excited. All the rest should be placed aside with a polite “Thank you, but no thank you.”

3. Abandon Your Need to be ‘Perfect.’

In my humble opinion, perfectionism should be named as a psychological disorder (not that you asked). I don’t mean to insult anyone who labels themselves a perfectionist. Really, I don’t. I can be one myself from time to time. But guess what? What is “perfect?” NOTHING! NO ONE!! Perfectionism is just an illusion that people chase. It’s not real. It’s just this unattainable goal that keeps eluding us all. So stop chasing it. Just be happy with who you are! Take the pressure off of yourself and strive for excellence, not perfection. Believe me, there is a difference.

4. Don’t Worry About Hurting Other People’s Feelings.

Many people – especially women – are conditioned to want to make other people happy. We don’t want to be mean. We don’t want someone to feel bad because of our actions. But here’s a newsflash for you – no one is responsible for anyone else’s feelings but their own. As long as you act kindly, speak with love, and have good intentions, you don’t have to worry. If people get offended, then it is their problem, not yours. We all need to take personal responsibility for our feelings, not blame others. So detach from thinking you need to make everyone happy. You don’t.

5. Don’t Buy into Societal Pressure to “Keep up with the Joneses” (or “the Kardashians”)

In the United States, we live in a culture of excess. From constant celebrity tabloid gossip to feeling like we’re “nothing” if we don’t have a bigger house, a nicer car, or go on better vacations that the “Joneses.” Again, it’s all an illusion. Just because your 3-year-old isn’t a soccer superstar yet, well, that doesn’t mean that you’re a failure as a parent. Who cares? See #1 and memorize it…stop caring about what other people think of you.

6. Be Selfish.

Yes, that word has a negative connotation. I know it does. No one wants to be labeled as “selfish.” But guess what? Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish. It’s called ‘self-love.’ If you do nothing but give, and give, and give, and then give some more…well, you’re tank is going to run dry very quickly. And when your tank is dry, you can’t give any more. So you need to refill your tank. And that means saying ‘no’ to obligations that zap your rejuvenation time. It’s okay. No, really. It’s okay to say no.

7. Don’t Impulsively and Habitually say ‘Yes.’

There have been times in my life where I said ‘yes’ only out of habit or because I thought I should. I said ‘yes’ to a promotion – when I later realized I really didn’t like the type of work I would have to do. ‘Yes’ to taking on a major project that I had no experience or training with only to realize later that I hated it. It’s okay to take time to think about it. In fact, it’s imperative.

8. Focus on Your Feelings – Does it Make You Feel Good or Bad?

Let your feelings guide you. Get out of your head. Does your chest tighten up when you say ‘yes’ to a commitment? If it does, hit ‘cancel.’ Pay attention to your feelings. Don’t rationalize too much. If it feels like too much, then it probably is. Don’t try to talk yourself into or out of something that your intuition tells you isn’t right.

9. Don’t Prioritize Your Schedule, Schedule Your Priorities.

Some people live and die by their schedules. Honestly, I am one of them. But not for the same reasons as other people do. I live by my schedule only to make sure I arrive on time and live up to the obligations I have willingly and joyfully committed to. Look at your real priorities. Having your kids in 20,000 different activities while working a high-powered job and being president of the PTO are all choices. Choices that are probably stressing you out. If they don’t, then cool. Keep doing it! But if not, then you need to re-think your priorities.

10. Know That Being Busy Doesn’t Always Equal Happiness. Or Success.

Sometimes people confuse “busy-ness” with achievement. I know plenty of people who are constantly busy but actually accomplish next to nothing. Just because you’re busy, busy, busy, doesn’t make you more successful, happier, or a better achiever than someone who has learned to say ‘no.’

11. Look at What You’re Missing Out On.

‘Me’ time. Family dinners. Talking with your kids. Playing games with your family. At the end of your life, what are you going to regret the most? Not being president of every organization and club? Not spending more time at work? Not having your kid make it to the NBA (which, by the way, unless he/she is 7 feet tall with crazy talent, well, that might not happen …)? Or not really getting to know your kids. Or not really enjoying yourself and finding your inner peace. I think most people would regret the latter.

Here’s the bottom line: It’s okay to say no! It’s not only okay, it’s necessary if you want to achieve balance and inner peace. If you’ve never known how that feels, you may not have even considered saying ‘no.’  Don’t worry. People will still like you. Your kids and/or spouse will thank you. In the end, saying ‘no’ will keep you sane. And it will give you a sense of a life well lived, not a life ‘well-stressed.’

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