Just like yoga, saying No is a practice unto itself 

I had my dream job. It encompassed everything that I had written down on a piece of paper a few years previously for what my ideal workday would look like. 

When I wrote it down, I didn’t even think it was possible–where could I find a management position with hiking, yoga, fitness, and nutrition all rolled up in one role? Yet, that is what came to fruition. 

I loved the people I worked with. My days were diverse even though the structure was the same week to week. The changes I helped facilitate in people over just a few days were awe-inspiring. We won awards and had rave reviews. 

That was the glossy side of my life. 

The Dark Side of the Dream Job

“If you don’t prioritize your life. Someone else will.” -Greg McKeon

The flip slide was that I was working a minimum of 60 hours a week (but most were closer to 80). Sometimes I didn’t go home for a three-day stretch. I was regularly told by my supervisors that I wasn’t working hard enough. 

They said I needed to do more. I needed every client to adore me. 

I was exhausted, barely saw anyone outside of work, and escaped to the movies on my day off for those two hours with no phone. 

On the day I gave my notice they asked if there was anything they could do to keep me. No, I said. I was done. I couldn’t keep up anymore. 

I was supposed to be an ideal of health and wellness and felt like a fraud because while I did appear to be in many ways, I wasn’t in the one way that really mattered. 

I was not taking care of myself. I was burned out.

Like many in the health and wellness industry, I had put others’ needs before my own. 

This is common amongst my peers. We aim to help people live their lives better. We know how much our skills can make an impact. Yet, we forget to practice them ourselves. 

I vowed to never do that again. 

The Problem With Not Saying No

Saying No can be hard. Especially for simple requests. Maybe the request will throw off a deadline, have us running, barely on time to pick up a child, or is something you just don’t want to do for whatever reason. 

Yet, we agree for simplicity or because we feel expected to. 

I genuinely like helping out and being a team player–it feels good. 

However, I’ve realized that always saying yes actually limited myself and others. By agreeing to work extra hours, I didn’t give myself the proper time to decompress or spend time with friends. 

It also didn’t allow others to step up and take on responsibility. Because I always said yes, I became the first and last person that was asked and eventually I found myself feeling resentful.

When you say No, you are actually saying Yes to yourself and your priorities. 

Sticking to your boundaries puts you in control of your time, and the energy that you give. 

This means if fitness is important, you don’t allow anything to interrupt your workout. Same with family dinnertime, or whatever your self-nourishing priorities are. 

Personally, I’m an introvert and if I have a busy teaching day, I need time to rejuvenate. Going to a massive party is not going to happen; a cup of coffee with a close friend may.

To change your relationship to the word No, explore the following practices in self-awareness.

Learn to Slow Down

As I learned when I attended one of the first Breath and Bliss Immersions, spending two full days lying around on a Coregeous® Ball breathing does wonders for the nervous system. 

At the time I attended this immersion, my parasympathetic nervous system needed so much love. I had no idea.

I felt more at peace. My anxiety decreased, which I didn’t realize that i even needed. My sleep was deeper and I woke more restful. 

The following practice can help you slow down enough to feel how you’re really feeling, and make wise decisions for yourself.

NeuroTuneUp “Tune in” Practice

Materials: a Coregeous® Ball with straw that comes with it or 2-3 cocktail/coffee stirrer straws.

Breathe: take 10-20 breaths through the straws in each position. 

Focus on using the breath to flatten the Coregeous® Ball, bringing awareness into the muscles of that region. 

Step 1: Begin by lying on your back with the Coregeous® Ball between your shoulder blades. (A blanket may be needed for support under your head.) 10-20 breaths through the straws.

 

Step 2: Repeat the same exercise, lying on the left side with the Coregeous® Ball on the side ribs below the armpit. Knees bent and at about hip height. 10-20 breaths through the straws

Step 3: Next, from the side, roll the shoulders down toward the ground with the Coregeous® Ball located in the Upper Right Chest. 10-20 breaths through the straws.

Repeat 2 & 3 on the right side. 

Step 4: Roll onto the stomach with the Coregeous® Ball under the sternum. Hands can be under the head to support it and the head can be turned to one side. Switch the direction of the head partway through. 10-20 breaths through the straws

Now, take some time to tune in and answer the following questions for yourself.

Self-Inquiry on Saying “No”

Think about how you say “No” and how you feel doing it. 

Do you have a whole song and dance about how you would love to, but x, and y, and z, and then the dog, and the car? 

Or are you like a two-year-old and say “No” quickly with ease and determination

The best way is to give a firm no with a short reason and possibly suggest an alternative if appropriate. 

Examples of an effective “No”:

  • “That sounds like an amazing opportunity! Thank you for thinking of me. Right now I’m focused on this project and couldn’t give the time required. Did you talk to Rachel? She mentioned that she was looking for something like this.”
  • “I’d be happy to take on this time-sensitive project, but you also want to have the budget done by 5 pm. Would you rather have the budget done by tomorrow at 5 pm or pass along the project to someone else?”
  • “I’d love to bake my cupcakes for the bake sale, but I’m on a major time crunch right now. I can buy some from the bakery.” 
  • “I’m sorry, but I don’t take clients on the weekends. I do offer some late evening hours on Monday and Wednesday to accommodate a busy work week. Would an 8 pm time slot work?”

Is there anything happening in your life right now that you know you want to say No to? How might you do that?

To honor my need for No, I have turned down jobs that didn’t fit in with how I wanted to work. 

The logical part of me had me looking at my dwindling bank account wondering why I would turn down a good opportunity. But I haven’t regretted any of those decisions. Other opportunities came along, or I created new opportunities on my own terms. 

Giving myself time to think about the option, looking at my priority list and schedule, allowed me time to find the right answer. 

Saying YES to What You Love

The first thing I did after quitting my job was to travel, which fills my soul. 

I spent almost four weeks in South East Asia and two in Boston & New York. I pampered myself with massages, hiking, and exploration followed by connection with family and friends.

This may sound extreme and not like something we can do all the time. But we still need to carve out time for a passion. 

Whether it is a visit to an art museum, going to a lecture, enjoying a walk in the woods, taking a class on making jewelry, or whatever else lights you up, your soul will be nourished.

When we fill our own energy cup, we can better share that with others. 

At a minimum, set aside a few hours once a month, but aim for once a week. Block it off and make it a priority. It’s better to reschedule than cancel. 

I’ve definitely improved in saying “No” and in setting boundaries. Just recently, I dropped a class at a studio where I’ve been teaching for two years in order to rent a space that will provide more freedom to accomplish some of my goals. It’s scary, as I’m making a big leap, but it’s also tremendously exciting.

I’m not perfect though. I still catch myself making choices that don’t fit with where I want my life to go. And sometimes I wait too long to make a decision to make sure it feels right. Overall,  I feel much more confident in my life’s journey right now. For me, that is the best outcome.

 

Shop this post: To practice all three NeuroTuneUp techniques, get the Coregeous® Sponge Ball.

 

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Kate Hamm

Kate loves to be a catalyst for others by inspiring and teaching them to find their path to wellness. Over the years, she has assisted thousands of celebrities, executives, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts lose weight and adopt healthier habits. She has been described as a seeker and quirky professor. The former is due to her constant reading, listening to podcasts and taking continuing education courses. The latter is because of how she shares her knowledge with her sense of humor. Her path has taken her all over the United States and the world. From growing up in the heart of Massachusetts, to upstate New York for her BS in Exercise Science, to New York City where she was a sought out swim instructor and personal trainer, to London for training, to Hawaii where she taught yoga and fitness classes on a cruise ship, to Patagonian Chile for a year long course with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a van leading tours around the Southwest hiking and camping, and an award winning wellness retreat center. In 2016, Kate started AnamBliss to continue helping others find their destination of wellness.

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Isis

Cómo algo tan simple puede resultar tan difícil a veces. Sobre todo cuando nos han enseñando a complacer a los demás para que nos quieran, para agradar, o simplemente para ser “buenos”. Definitivamente hay que poner límites, porque si no lo hacemos conscientemente, lo haremos inconscientemente a través de la enfermedad (física, mental o emocional). Gracias por el recordatorio.

Mariana Espinosa

This article is so true for many of us, always trying to accomplish too many things in our days committing to more than we can. Trying to make everyone happy and/or satisified not always makes us feel fulfilled and by observing how a situation make us feel we can have a real feedback of what we do want in our lives and to what can we say no. I loved “When you say No, you are actually saying Yes to yourself and your priorities. “ Putting ourselves first can be hard when we are always thinking of others first, and… Read more »

Michelle Mucci

I am feeling the need to say no more and more. Thanks for some tips to not feel guilty taking time for self care.

Wendy L. Rodríguez M.

“Si tú no priorizas tu vida, alguien más lo hará por ti” Me quedo con esta frase que de manera clara nos dice que debemos hacernos cargo de nosotros mismos y tomar la responsabilidad de hacer nuestras propias elecciones. Muchas veces hacemos las cosas por pertenecer: porque asi se acostumbra, porque es el deber ser, porque asi se ha hecho y porque no puedo decir No. Decir No puede ser muy dificil y preferimos dar rodeos y excusas con tal de no quedar mal, llenándonos de esta manera de actividades que ocupan nuestro tiempo y ni siquiera están enfocadas a… Read more »

Maria Kiekari

I used to be very bad and saying No. In México, culturally we tend to go around, and around explanations before saying no, we are very bad at saying no, but i have worked with this cultural imprint and my no´s have become more that my yes, when it comes to set boundaries and really prioritize my life, what i why i want to make that decision and if that decision is really taking me closer to that place where i want to be .
Thanks! great article.

DOLORES ROMERA

La exigencia social, la necesidad de responder a las demandas de determinados “estándares” nos vuelven esclavos de nosotros mismos. Incluso detrás de la fachada de un estilo de vida y de hábitos saludable . Si somos capaces de romper esa rueda de maltrato estaremos contribuyendo a sociedades más sanas y compasivas. Cómo podríamos realmente enseñar o dar a los otros si no somos capaces de cuidarnos y protegernos. Decir que no es una forma de protección y de amor. Si no sabemos amarnos no podremos dar amor. Y sin amor nada florecerá. Gracias Kate compartir tu experiencia , es muy… Read more »

wendy

I always have a very hard time say No to people that i like or want to help, or i always say Yes without thinking about if it is out of my capacity or overwhelms my schedule. I have agreed on doing things for others even i think it would be way too much for me, but because i didn’t know how to say No, i immediately said Yes, of course, it didn’t take long for me to change my mind and apologize to the person because i can’t keep my words. I have learned to take some time before… Read more »

Marlene

Wanting to do for others is always a very satisfying and gratifying act but sometimes one has to know where to draw the line and set boundaries because one can totally lose themselves if they continually become a doormat

Mel C Russo

Wow! This is such a classic story for every Yoga teacher I know. For starters, we love what we do so saying Yes doesn’t seem like a big ask of us. And of course there’s the fear of Not having work so saying Yes to everything helps you pay your bills. But you’re so right, if you deplete yourself, you have nothing to give anyway. And it’s ironic that so many “healers” in the wellness world are suffering from a lack of self care. A very wise friend told me the other day that “No” is a full sentence. Thank… Read more »

Jennifer Freymond

Thanks for sharing Kate! So hard to say ‘No’, but imperative to our own personal health!

Matty Espino

Love this article! This is something I am currently and constantly working on. I am the type of person who loves to help and do everything – sometimes a little too much at the expense of the energy I can give. I find that saying “no” can feel like I am perhaps letting people down or even more myself. But the practice of solid boundaries and leaving time for me to do more things I love is really self-nourishing and necessary. Appreciate this reminder and your practical tools for it.

Jenny

I find your journey so interesting! How amazing that you had the dream job but such a nightmare experience. As the years go by, I’m realizing that it’s the quality of life that matters more than the job (I’ve always been career-oriented). Having time to spend with friends and live a balanced and inspired life leads to a peaceful me. That’s what I want – not the perfect career and accolades – though this is a work in progress for me… Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Buddy

This reminds me of a quote (included below) by Steve Jobs when discussing his paring down Apple’s product offerings. As a person who’s prone to over-extending myself, this lesson has come hard for me. And on occasion, it still does. I’m learning that I feel more gratified with my work and produce objectively better work when I pare back my own commitments to those which I can devote myself to fully. Thanks for this. “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no… Read more »

Sandra S.

Excellent article! I can soooooo relate to this! If you’re a giver (as opposed to being a taker), saying no goes totally against your personality and core values when it comes to responding to people asking something of you. Took me way too long to learn that there were times where saying no wasn’t an option, but a necessity. Take heed, all you givers out there! Sometimes, you have to just say no!