Saying Yes to Self-Care


Saying “No” Means Saying “Yes” to Self-Care

Recently I attended an annual convention that had a theme of self-care. When I had first heard the theme following last year’s convention, I remember thinking, “how can we do an entire convention on self-care?” I wondered how we would be able to have 30-40 sessions all on self-care that didn’t completely overlap each other. Over the course of the last year, I worked to put together my presentation for the convention. I realized that there are so many facets of self-care, especially in our field, that I hadn’t initially thought of. One of the biggest things I walked away from the convention and my own research with is that saying “no” is necessary for self-care.

So often, we feel an obligation to say “yes” to the requests of others. We may feel compelled to always be ready to lend a helping hand, even when it means that our own needs fall to the wayside. This is particularly true of those in helping professions, parents, and educators, but can impact all of us. Following the convention, I read an article in the September 2019 edition of Counseling Today by Keith Myers on saying “no.” (I know, I’m almost 2 months behind!) This article offered great insight into how beneficial (and necessary) saying “no” is to our well-being.

Myers states in the article, “sometimes, saying no is the healthiest action to take in being well.” Here are his thoughts and what I have taken from them:

Saying “no” to something is really saying “yes” to someone or something else. The truth is, we only have so much to give. If I say “yes” to the first few things asked of me, then I will not be able to say “yes” to things that I may really want. Being in a doctoral program, there were a number of opportunities that presented themselves and I always felt I had to take on all of them. I knew I had been out of school for a while, had not publications, and so I NEEDED those things on my CV to be employable. I soon realized that if I said “yes” to things that were not as meaningful for me, those obligations would prevent me from taking on the things I really had a strong passion for.

Saying “no” is a way to set healthy boundaries for what’s most important during each of life’s seasons. I also began graduate school while raising two young children. If I continued to say “yes” to all of the things that were offered professionally and academically, I would not have been able to have as much time for my family. This was definitely something I learned the hard way. Previously, when working for a residential treatment facility, I realized that my career was taking over my life and my family and I were suffering because of it. I ended up leaving that job for a slightly less prestigious position and less pay in order to salvage my family life and maintain boundaries around that time.

Saying “no” can help us maintain our work-life balance. As stated above, when we say “yes” to everything in one area of our lives, we then end up inadvertently saying “no” to the other areas of our lives. When I worked in residential treatment, my family life, my social life, and my self-care suffered. In graduate school, I struggled to find time for family and self-care when I focused too hard on academics and social life. Currently, I am working on ways to achieve a better balance with all areas of wellness, which means having to say “no.”

Saying “no” helps us keep the main thing the main thing. As I stated previously, when we take on too many things, it may mean that things that are most important to us fall to the wayside. I dreamed of having more children (in addition to my stepson) for several years before I had my daughter. It was what I wanted most in this world. So, years later, why was I prioritizing so much above her and my other 2 children? I needed to re-prioritize so that things that mattered most got most of my quality time.

What are some ways you can re-think your priorities and ability to say “no” based on the list above? As the great Audre Lorde said, self-care is not a luxury, but is needed for our survival.

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