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Why You Should Master the Art of Saying No

Why You Should Master the Art of Saying No

Yes or no?

The choice between these two could not be greater, but — despite what you might have been taught — no is just as important as yes.

Let me explain.

It’s a common misunderstanding that successful people say “yes” to everything. In fact, when we do this, our performance suffers, making it impossible for us to keep on top of everything. In the end, we let everyone down — especially ourselves.

While it’s true that we should jump on opportunities that benefit our long-term goals and provide us with satisfaction — many people confuse this with the idea of saying “yes” to anyone who asks for a favor or presents us with an opportunity. Of course, the reason people like to say “yes” is obvious; it’s the hope that the favor or opportunity will somehow weave itself into their ultimate goals.

But, here is what career counselor Dara Blaine has to say on this subject:

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“We live in a ‘yes’ culture, where it’s expected that the person who is going to get ahead is the go-getter who says yes to everything that comes their way. However, it’s when people learn to say no that I’ve really seen their careers take off.”

Why You Should Say No More Often

So why should you become comfortable with saying no?

Well, firstly, when you say “yes” to everyone, your priorities will be shifted away from your own and towards other people’s. You’ll also have a tendency to feel burnt out and stressed because your time is not being allocated as you wish.

And, it gets worse…

By constantly saying “yes”, you won’t have the time or bandwidth to dedicate to things that are important to you (such as your career, hobbies and family). And — despite what you might think — you’ll come across as lacking confidence, as other people will consciously or unconsciously perceive you as someone with low assertiveness when it comes to your own needs and boundaries.

Saying “no” should come easily, right? 

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You would think so. Yet a lot of people, especially those who identify as people-pleasers, find it very difficult to utter this two-letter word.

But, let me share a secret with you: it’s futile to try and please everyone.

Another factor that stops people (perhaps even yourself) from saying no, is a fear of disappointing others. While this is an understandable fear, remember that you have to take care of yourself; and if you’re overly stressed and tired, you won’t be of much help to those you dedicate your time to.

Outline Your Priorities

Do you know what you need to get done versus what you feel obligated to do?

Think about that question for a moment.

In my experience, it’s vital not to let things go unchecked. Because if you’re trying to juggle TOO MUCH, there’s no way you’re dedicating enough time to the things that need it most — whether this be at work, home or beyond.

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If you’re unclear about your priorities, take some time to list all the things you’re currently doing, the things you want to be doing, and the things you are doing.

The most important things will stand out to you, and you’ll quickly be able to think of reasons why these matter to you.

The next step, is to think of other items you’ve committed to — such as volunteering at an event simply because you don’t want to let a casual acquaintance down.

Learning to prioritize effectively can help you become more efficient, save you time and decrease your stress. That’s because, once you know what’s most important, it’s easier to decide where to focus your time and energy.

How to Say No Effectively

So now you know why you should say no and how to prioritize your tasks. The question you might be asking yourself is: “How do I say no?”  

The answer can be found in the seven tips below:

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  1. Be direct, and use phrases such as, “no, I don’t want to” or “no, I can’t.” 
  2. Don’t feel the need to apologize or to make up reasons for not doing something. 
  3. It’s better to say “no” at the outset if you can’t or don’t want to do something. This will prevent you from feeling resentful later.
  4. Use the power of politeness, by responding, “thanks for asking, but…”
  5. Picture yourself saying no. You can do this by running ‘mental movies’ in your mind that show you confidently declining requests for your time or effort. (This will make it much easier to say no in real life.)
  6. Avoid saying things like, “let me think about it,” if you already know that you don’t want to do it.
  7. Always remember that your self-worth is not dependent on what or how much you do for others.

To really drive home these points, please re-read all of them again before going any further.

Now, you don’t have to adopt all seven tips, but you’ll probably want to adopt at least two or three. By doing this, you’ll gain the emotional and mental strength to take back control of your life.

When you think you’re being taken advantage of — you’ll say no. And when you’re being asked to do things that will distract you from your priority tasks — you’ll also say no.

“No” is an incredibly powerful word that can cut through the dross in your life. And, once your start regularly using this word; your confidence will soar, and you’ll put your life on a new trajectory.

Featured photo credit: Abbie Bernet via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on September 25, 2020

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

5 Powerful Self-Care Ideas for When Life Is Stressful

Stress doesn’t discriminate. It affects everyone, invariably in different ways. Regardless of how stress shows up in your life, I think we can all agree that it’s present. When it does show up, it takes over the show. It then becomes difficult to stay in the present moment or show gratitude for what and who we have in our life. In the eye of the stress storm, everything is tossed around into oblivion. This is probably when self-care finally comes to our mind.

How Does Stress Show Up?

On a physical scale, stress tends to be behind many of our typical ailments, such as headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, or body aches and pain.[1] When we’re in stressful situations, our body activates our fight-or-flight response. According to the American Institute of Stress, when the body is in this mode due to stress, “the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the adrenal glands, triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.”[2]

Why is this important? While our fight-or-flight response is extremely helpful when we’re in situations that risk our survival, not every situation is that dire. However, the body doesn’t know how to differentiate between such scenarios. Rather, we become accustomed to seeing every stressful situation as dire, and essentially locked into this fight-or-flight response automatically. This causes us to burn out because our body is constantly fighting or fleeing from threats that are not causing us any real harm.

On a mental and emotional scale, according to the Mayo Clinic, “Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior.” Everything is interconnected. When our physical body takes a toll due to stress, this has a domino effect on how we process our thoughts and feelings. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see correlations between depression and anxiety when it comes to dealing with stress.

How to Combat Stress?

Below are five self-care ideas for combating stress in your life. Consider implementing them into your daily routine for the best results.

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1. Start a Brain Dump Writing Exercise

When you’re overwhelmed with thoughts, it can become very difficult to stay present and focused. This could affect you at work, in school, or in your relationships. It’s as if your mind were filled to the brim with thoughts that are constantly competing for your attention. If left unattended, this can affect your performance or your state of being. Stress is just brewing!

One exercise to get this under control is called a Brain Dump, and it’s exactly how it sounds. Start by getting comfortable with a pen and paper or your favorite journal. Without any special formatting or introduction, just start writing any and all thoughts that come up. Consider your paper a blank canvas onto which you’re going to spill every thought, no matter how small or unimportant. This can look like a laundry list, a jumble of words, or a paragraph. Don’t think too much of how it looks. The idea is to give your thoughts an exit. Once they’re on paper, they’re no longer swimming in your head for attention.

Once you have them written down, leave them as they are. We have a tendency to want to fix our thoughts. Instead, allow them to simply exist as they are — they’re not right or wrong. Consider coming back to this exercise daily or whenever you feel like you have a lot on your mind.

2. Sweat It Out

There is nothing more therapeutic than moving the physical body when it feels the weight of stress. Energetically, we carry our day in our body! If we’ve had a particularly difficult day, that energy is going to feel tense and unsettling. This is why it’s so important to move and really break a sweat!

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America,[3]

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“Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.”

Find what exercise regimen works for you, and commit to it for a few days per week. Scientists have also found that even 10-15 minutes of aerobic exercise can have a tremendous effect on your body. Go for a run, take a spin class or a power yoga class, or dance the stress away in Zumba. Whatever gets your heart rate up and breaks a sweat is one of the perfect self-care ideas to keep the stress away.

3. Seek the Care of a Therapist

Sometimes writing out our thoughts and feelings doesn’t seem quite enough. This is common and to be expected. After all, we are complex human beings who want to understand and process our emotions on a deeper level. This is why having a regular therapy session is so beneficial!

In the presence of a professional, we can open up about what stressful situations we’re going through. We don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up, and we know that our honesty will be protected and safeguarded.

Additionally, when we’re feeling stressed, we often want to simply vent and get things off of our chest. Having someone on the receiving end who will simply listen and hold space is a truly healing gift. We can often leave the session feeling more empowered, seen, and offloaded of the stress we brought in.

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Lastly, we may be able to receive guidance from our therapist on a particular situation we’re struggling with. Having someone else’s perspective on something we’re too emotionally close to can be just the right solution.

Here are more self-care ideas from a therapist: Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice).

4. Interrupt Your Day

This may seem like a derailing technique, but give it a shot! Interrupting your day means introducing something entirely new or random into a routine that is very monotonous or typical.

If your work or school day is the same sequence of events every single day, bringing in an interruption can be quite conducive to your productivity and creativity. This can look like pausing in the middle of the day for a yoga stretch at your desk or in your office. It could be playing your favorite playlist in-between meetings or taking a walk outside for lunch. Not only does this stir up new energy for your day, but it can also de-stress your day.

As I said in the earlier tip, when we’re too close to a situation or conflict, we have a harder time breaking away. We’re so emotionally and mentally invested that we don’t see how that proximity is affecting our health. So, interrupt yourself when you’re feeling stress coming on, and do something fun, random, and refreshing.

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5. Get Some Energy Work Done

Energy work is anything that is being done to improve the circulation and energetic flow of the body. This could be a massage, Reiki session, chiropractic adjustment, or acupuncture. As I said in a previous tip, moving the body helps move the energy that is blocked or stuck. This is why exercise is so important. However, sometimes we need a session where that work is done for us by a licensed professional. In such treatments, we have the luxury to relax and receive the benefits of the treatment. It’s a beautiful way to self-care!

Final Thoughts

Stress is unfortunately a common part of our life. It affects everyone, but to what extent it affects you is personal. One thing is for sure, and that is that stress has a tremendous effect on our physical, mental, and emotional state. This is why regular exercise is so important, as well as mental stimulation and emotional release. These self-care ideas won’t necessarily guard you from ever feeling stressed, but they will help you manage it better.

More Self-Care Ideas

Featured photo credit: Alisa Anton via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Mayo Clinic: Stress Management
[2] The American Institute of Stress: How the Fight or Flight Response Works
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress

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