Ever feel like life is a tennis ball machine, shooting ball after ball right at your head, as you attempt to swing at each one over and over again? It’s as if there’s no end to this insane game and when you really start to fatigue, some hidden force cranks up the speed and balls are now smacking you in the face and kidneys and everywhere in between.
Well, my January was exactly like that. Health issues, financial issues, starting a new job, leaving an old one; it was stressor after stressor. The more life hurled ball after ball at me, the more I felt myself stumbling to stay upright. By week three, my life felt like the famous scene from “Scarface” where Al Pacino, a.k.a. life, just open fire and screamed, “Hey Davana! Say hello to my little friend!”
‘No’ as self-care
That’s when I realized one important thing needs to happen when times get ridiculously tough and we feel emotionally raw: we need to learn to say no more often.
When life decides to gang up on you - and it will - you need to practice the art of saying “no.” That’s not something that’s frequent or normal for many of us. We put everyone and everything ahead of ourselves and despite burning out, getting sick or having zero time left in the day, we continue to say yes.
The result: we give a small percentage of ourselves to everyone and everything, and we never are fully present. Our bodies and mental state take a beating and we feel “raw,” a term I like to use that embodies such a heightened sense of physical sensitivity, irritation and emotional vulnerability.
When life decides to go Pacino on you, practice the art of saying “no.” This can be profoundly hard for some people, because there is this sense of letting others down and therefore not caring about them. The word no feels harsh. But we need to tweak our thinking of how we use “no” as a means of self-care and to realize there are various ways to deliver the “no” message.
Four ways to say it
There are four versions of “no,” and understanding them and practicing them will provide you with many more options for when you need a real break. The first version has to do with time and is a form of no that simply delays what’s been asked of you.
1. “Can you come give a speech next week?” Answer: “Unfortunately not at this time, but I will be able to help you out next month.” This type of “no” buys you time to deal with the other things on your plate, while still giving the other party an answer they can accept.
2. “No. Not this way.” This “no” response addresses the logistics of the request. “Can you give a three-hour speech at corporate headquarters?” Answer: “Unfortunately no, but I can do a 30-minute talk via teleconference.”
3. “No. Not this particular thing.” This response provides a complete alternative to their request. “Can you give a speech?” Answer: “Unfortunately no, but I can make you a handout or poster.”
4. The flat “no.” Sometimes, there is no way to postpone, redesign or provide an alternative to something you’ve been asked to do. There are times when it’s totally OK to just say “no.”
So for the first time in over a year, I missed my Jan. 29 column deadline, hence no Finish Line that week. It was my “no,” along with several other important items that I just could not deliver on. As I made each decision to say no, a little weight was lifted. With each no, a part of me was reclaimed, and my stress levels went down. The insomnia lessened, the worry reduced and I felt like life wasn’t as bad as I had made it out in my head.
Take back your time
February is the month of love. Yes, love and value the people in your life, but don’t forget about you. Loving yourself is equally as important as loving everyone else. Your assignment for this week is to simply say no to one thing, just one. Say no to a meeting or no to a family request that will take away your “me” time.
Whatever it is you choose, practice your version of no and then pay attention to the immediate sense of peace you feel when you claim a small piece of you back for yourself. February 11, 2018