Learn to say no so you can say yes to health and well-being

Perhaps the single biggest cause of chronic disease and health problems is stress. Our bodies can’t function well when we’re constantly under stress—inevitably, things start to go wrong. We get worn down, and then we get sick. Often, we stay sick.

What can we do about this?

Some stresses are unavoidable. Life happens. That means that events unexpected and uncomfortable sometimes come up, whether we want them to or not. 

However, we can do something about many of our other sources of stress. How many of us take on more than we’re really able to, because we think we should or because we’re trying to keep up with those around us? How many of us force ourselves to stay constantly busy, because we’re afraid of what might happen if we slow down or stop for a moment?

Does that sound like you? It sounds like most of the people I know.

I think most of us want to be helpful and to contribute to society. But I think it’s a really valuable thing to learn how to do that with discernment; to recognize that being helpful and contributing means taking care of ourselves, not just others. 

Sometimes, it’s good to say no, instead of yes—to say “I’m stressed and tired and I need to take care of myself now.”

This is itself uncomfortable for a lot of people. At work, for example, we might be worried that we’ll be punished somehow for not taking on an extra assignment. Or we might just feel guilty that we’re not doing our part. This doesn’t just happen at the office either—we might feel obligated to go out for a dinner with friends even though we’re exhausted and just want to curl up and take a nap.

But it’s worth working through that discomfort. If you learn to say no sometimes, you can give yourself more time to de-stress and relax. This can have a powerful effect on your health in the long run, because your body needs that time to heal and repair itself. Even something as simple as taking the time to get enough sleep every night can have a tremendous impact on your overall well-being.

If you’re really uncomfortable with saying no, that’s okay—like most things, it just takes practice. Try setting limits for yourself in little ways, and see how that goes. To many people, it feels really empowering!

Ideally, we can find a healthy balance between yes and no. Try experimenting and start to create yours!