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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte Wallwork

Tips on how to stop saying YES, and why this is good for our mental and physical health.

This blog is about how to politely decline social invitations and why that’s the right thing to do for our mental and physical health.

Saying NO sounds simple enough. But what I’ve noticed in myself recently and through feedback from others that it can be tough for us to say no to things, in particular, social occasions and events.

I am writing this in the midst of the festive season. The past few weeks have been engulfed by work functions, family events, Christmas parties, social gatherings, birthday parties, Christmas carols and volunteering projects. Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful time of year, catching up with friends and family, eating and drinking too much and having lots of fun.

However, there have been times where I have felt totally overwhelmed and craving ME time.

I was recently speaking to a friend who told me that she had been having a similar experience to me. She recommended a podcast that she was listening to called Rise & Conquer by Georgie Stevenson. I would highly recommend this fun and uplifting podcast to people wanting to reflect on their current situation and what they want for the future.

Feelings of being overwhelmed do not only appear at Christmas. However, for many of us, this even busier period means we have a heightened response to our feelings. Ultimately my calendar was just too busy! I didn’t have enough time to keep on top of all my events and was struggling to maintain my routine and getting enough sleep and exercise.

Not only was my routine out of the window, but I was stretching myself too thin and no longer able to have meaningful conversations with people. I pride myself in being that friend or relative who is always there to listen and be attentive. If I know I am not being fully present, I feel disappointed that I am not giving my best to others.

I decided to take a step back and evaluate what was going on in my life. I listened to the PODcast recommended to me and took some time to think carefully about events and social gatherings I had coming up.

Many people out there can relate to this. Throughout the year, we all have busy periods where we forget about what we need as individuals and focus on our external relationships. It’s important to remember, we can’t be there for others if we aren’t present ourselves and in the right mindset to socialise. Conversations can be tiring and take its toll on if you haven’t had enough sleep, eaten the right food and had enough time to relax.

How to decide whether to go?

Time - This is key. I’m not saying take a week to respond to a message, however taking an hour or so to think about what you would like to do it perfectly reasonable.

Be honest - Don’t lie. Making up and elaborate web of lies to try and excuse ourselves is only going to end in a disaster. Whatever the reason you don’t want to go, honesty is the best policy. Whether you have too much on at work, not enough money, or that you need some time on your own are all perfectly valid reasons that the majority of us can relate to.

Prioritise - Many use the term ‘spinning multiple plates’ as a metaphor for how we run our chaotic lives. However, within this, to be able to make decisions on what we have enough time for we need to break these plates down into a manageable format.

A helpful tip that I have found it to use the simple equation below to help me determine the impact of my choices:

If I do X, it means I won’t have time for Y. If I don’t do X, I will have time for Y and Z.

Household chores, food shopping, seeing friends, catching up with relatives, work drinks, studying, volunteering, reading, exercise - our lives are filled with activities. Whatever it is that you are trying to fit in by using this calculation will help you to understand what you really have time for.

As I mentioned before, when you are not fully present in a situation because your mind is worried about everything you have going on, then you are being unfair to yourself but also others around you.

The consequences of not going?

Consequences are often associated with negative connotations and feelings. However, the main consequence of putting your energy into the right place will reduce stress and ultimately increase your happiness. There are, of course, other consequences that will be running through your mind.

These are all valid questions. But let me reassure you that your friends, family and work colleagues will appreciate the time you give them when you can be 100% present in the moment.

We are chronic pleasers, and as humans, we thrive off our relationships and interactions with others. But, occasionally it is perfectly OK to say NO - declining an invitation is not a rejection of an entire relationship!

REMEMBER. It works two ways - you as a friend or relative also need to be mindful that others may also be going through busy periods in their life. We must all be aware of the importance of respecting someone’s decision to decline an invitation without taking it personally.

How to communicate

It’s not about making up lies or making excuses, it’s about being honest and true to how you are feeling and your physical and mental capacity at the time.

Here are five tips on how to effectively communicate, saying NO:

  1. Keep it short and simple

  2. Propose an alternative date

  3. Be firm and stick to your decisions.

  4. Write it down - sometimes it’s easier to communicate over a message if you think the person might challenge your decision.

  5. Don’t be vague - don’t say ‘maybe’ or ‘i’m not sure’. This is confusing for the other person and will end up in them being frustrated if you don’t go.

You can be assertive and courteous at the same time by making sure you let them know that you are grateful for the invite.

REMEMBER: It’s your time and your choice to spend it in the best way possible. No one should feel pressured to attend social functions or meet-ups. However, it is your responsibility to take time to consider what you have going on at that moment and to make an informed choice about whether you want to do something.

This is much better than saying yes to everything and then feeling resentful because you are struggling to fit everything in!

As we approach the New Year it's time to start thinking about what behaviors and mindsets we want to work on in 2020. For me, saying NO to things and being OK with that is something I want to feel comfortable

incorporating into my regular life decisions.

Like any change in habit, it takes time, patience and most of all, awareness of how we are feeling both physically and mentally.

This is why my key message before saying YES to something is to take some time to ask yourself - is this really something I want to do and have time to do it? If not, then do the right thing for you and say no.

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