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

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. 

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

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. 

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

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

Mental Health and Emotional Resiliency Resource Header art

This article is part of a larger discussion on Mental Health and Emotional Resiliency.

During the month of August we are sharing educational articles and interviews to help navigate the challenges and struggles brought forth from living amidst a pandemic.  Our intention for sharing this curated list is so that you may learn new skills (or revisit old ones) to take care of your nervous system and incorporate breath, movement and mindset practices to increase emotional resiliency.  We invite you to take what works, and allow the rest to fall away.

If you liked this article, we’ve curated a list of practical how-to’s, interviews, and more on mental health and emotional resiliency:

  • How to Raise Self Awareness by Meredith Amann 
    “The unexamined life is not worth living” Socrates.   Many people agree awareness, like mindfulness, is a skill, but could it be our hidden super power?
  • The Secret to the Change You Crave Beth Damm 
    Words are not just tools for communication. Words have the power to uplift, unite, bless and transform, as you will see in the examples in this post. They can change your mindset.
  • Compassionate Insight: Shifting How We Define Resilience by Emily Pantolone
    Interested in building emotional resiliency?  Self-compassion may be the entry point to expanding your perspective.
  • How to Approach and Support Mental Health When You Aren’t A Therapist by Ariel Kiley
    Dr. Christopher Walling discusses mental health and the scope of practice for fitness, yoga and wellness teachers.
  • Why does it hurt? Demystifying pain. by Dinneen Viggiano 
    Do-at-home, no-equipment-needed, non-invasive therapeutic skills are indispensable for effectively managing stress, anxiety, exercise burnout, pain and more. Dinneen shares three self-care skills and accompanying practices to help you understand and transform your experience of pain.

Related ArticlePower Exercises for Inner Peace: A Conversation with Olympic Weightlifter Elizabeth Wipff and CrossFitter R.E. Lewis

Learn more about our Therapy Ball Products and Programs

Interested in video and blog content targeted to your interests

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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Sara Dewhurst

Thanks for giving us the right to say no to oppourtunities. I have a lot of guilt associated with not accepting to fill in for people when they are sick for example. I am definately going to take note of what my priorities are, and say yes only to the oppourtunities that are in line with my values!

Cynthia Racine

Saying ”No” to say ”Yes” to myself is something I’ve been doing often enough in the past years. My way of saying ”No” may be sometimes too direct (not unkind, but sometimes perceived as such). I love that you added examples on how to say ”No”, but it sounds like a ”Yes” by redirecting the person, or offering something else that is okay for you. Thanks!

Yiman

It is a journey to learn to say “No”. I am reading a book:The Courage to Be Disliked : How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness
par Fumitake Koga, Ichiro Kishimi, et al. It changed my life and I am not afraid to be dislike by saying NO. Thank you!

Cammy Adair

Such good tips! Love that quote by Greg MeKeon

Kristin Harris

Viewing saying No as an act of self-care illuminates the very important thing that we neglect when we give the obligatory Yes: oneself. In saying No we immediately open to a Yes within our own sphere of influence. Things tend to become cloudy when we are uncertain, ungrounded, or imbalanced. Forcing a Yes only digs us deeper into the hole of of regret. Being able to recognize what is a true need from a want is pivotal in living by the right choices, ones that can nourish and sustain us. My favorite quote in this article is my new sankalpa… Read more »

Julia Skinner

Great article I think there can be a stigma around the word no this is a great way to learn how to apply it in such a useful self care model

Denise Hopkins

Thank you, Kate, for this thoughtful and thorough post. This is a trap that almost all wellness professionals face at some point in their career. For years, I took on too many clients out of fear that saying no would leave me financially broke and alone. It left me sick and depleted. I would complain about my busy schedule with no time for doing what I love, then realized that I am the one who is in charge of my schedule! Saying “no” now feels empowering, like I am toning my spirit. Question- I am intrigued by the NeuroTuneUp “Tune… Read more »

Kara Stafford

Thanks for this reminder! I have been working on this, with boundaries at work, and with time, along with not feeling the need to explain why I am saying no when it comes to subbing classes for people because actually we just have the right to say no and leave it at that! This was really hard at first, but has become easier with practice. The breathwork in this sequence looks like it feels amazing and I look forward to practicing it regularly.

Jacquelyn Umof

This was such a good reminder to check in and prioritize my needs, especially when my work is always in service of others. Thanks for this insightful article.

Ashley Shears

Learning to say no to things not no longer serve me in a positive way in addition to slowing down has not only lifted a weight from my shoulders, but also has improved my health mentally and physically. Fantastic article!

Rani Bechar

I LOVED this post ! I have always had a hard time saying “no” and it’s inevitably caused a host of problems in my professional and personal life. My difficulty with being clear about my abilities and limitations have really negatively impacted my self care . Love the nourishing, restorative poses in this post . Going to try the breathing exercises soon!

Stephanie Aldrich

Thank you for the permission to say no! Women, especially, are conditioned to say “yes” to every request, which sets us up not just for burnout, but for resentment. Saying “no” when we really don’t want to say “yes” is better for us AND it’s better for others. And what a great way to model having healthy boundaries for our children! Once we become comfortable saying no when we mean no, it can open up space for us to say yes to the things we really want to focus on. thank you for an insightful and necessary post.

Paula

No… I love it. This speaks to me on So many levels. Having recently gone through my own “slowing down”, I am in agreement. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

Sheila Ewers

Wow…I can SOOOO relate to this! Thanks for sharing your story.

Priscilla Daniel

Thank you for being a role model to self love. Your examples for saying “NO” were helpful.

Tars Young

Lovely discussion of self care and how to make it happen ❤️

Missy Tillman

This was a perfectly timed article for me and while I have heard this before, I really loved the connect to the specific breath work and the quote: If you don’t prioritize your life. Someone else will.” -Greg McKeon

Megan White

Reframing saying “no” to be helpful for all parties involved is such a great shift of perspective.

Robyn

I definitely struggle with the ability to say No. For some reason I think it makes me weak . I want to be able to do it all and more. One of my New Years Resolutions is to do more Self Care. I am definitely not there, yet, but I have found by utilizing the Tune Up Balls I am getting to a more healthy place. It was nice to get your perspective and I can’t wait to try your routine on the Coregeous Ball.

Carol

I think learning to use an effective “no” is so important. I loved this article as it made me really think about where I am
In my life and if I am really saying yes to the RIGHT things. Thank you for sharing your story.and for offering helpful hints (and examples) of effective “no’s”.

Julie Heacock

This post really hits home. A few years ago I started say “Yes”to myself more. I struggled with feeling selfish, but eventually got over it. I discovered a rich world outside the one I created. Thanks for including how to say “No” suggestions; very helpful.

RAUL

N o one short word more Powerfull than these one. Responsable for many Wars and Millions lifes. Just 2 letters N O …. imagine 500 hundred years ago ? just said No can be a ticket to pass live to die in many issues, we are carrying these culture for many years, thousands may be, generation after generation. by the way religions are leading on these input on our minds even on these days. Is good make rules but on my opinion we need to be sure are using for being well as a human being and as a society.

Tristina Kennedy

I am such a YES! person – for others WAY more than myself. This, obviously, is not sustainable for a long period of time – at least not in a fulfilling way. I love the idea that saying no to something I don’t have the time/energy for (or am not in alignment with) is actually saying yes to my well-being & maintaining balance within my life.

ROLANDO MTZ

Learning to say “NO” its a very important task and also a very big challenge for alot of people, In my case I also found it some times challenging, but by reading this article I learned diferent ways in which I could managed to answer in this way when needed. Prioritisin my needs must be the first thing on my list in order to be aligned with my own self, by doing this I could be more able to give more to others around me.

Marnie Werner

Thank you for writing this, Kate. I don’t think I could ever get sick of reading blogs or articles on self-care. Even though I preach the importance of self-care to my students every single class, I still struggle with saying no. There are so many opportunities to connect with others, but more and more I find myself craving alone time. And honestly, having gratitude about the alone time while it is happening helps me to remember later on when I’m being asked whether I want to come to a party on Saturday night, that I might have a more rejuvenative… Read more »

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!