I’ve been having a bit of a rough time lately. As much as I try to maintain a positive outlook, it’s not always easy. Especially when I feel like I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions. I’m sure many of you can relate. As a full-time college student with two jobs, an internship and a blog, I expect life to get a little crazy sometimes. I know and fully accept that there will be moments of stress – it’s a part of life! But to feel an overwhelming amount stress for a prolonged period of time isn’t good for our health, mentally or physically.
Over the last few weeks, things have been a bit overwhelming. I decided I wanted to really begin to focus on producing more content for my blog, classes had just started and I was working way too many hours between my jobs. Things were getting so busy that days were running together and I was always exhausted. Syllabus week had barely passed before I felt like I already needed spring break to arrive. I had no idea how things had gotten out of control so quickly, but I did know that I was spending far too much time doing things that I didn’t genuinely want to be doing.
You see, I’m one of those people who struggle to say “no”, even if it’s something I don’t want to do. I have a hard time defining the line between being kind and being a pushover. Something that’s really difficult for me is saying “no” when I have nothing going on, but just don’t want to do something. I end up filling my schedule with things I don’t want to do, forcing myself to be miserable. That’s exactly what had been happening.
During these last couple of weeks, I was blowing up my mother’s phone to vent and unload my thoughts. I have no idea why she kept answering, when there was a 99% chance that I was going to call to say the exact same thing that I had been saying every day for the last week. But each time I called, she answered. And each time I texted, she responded. Being a twenty-something college student, I don’t know if she expected me to actually listen to what she was saying but I was. There were two big things that she opened my eyes to and I want to share them both with you, in hopes that you feel inspired to make some changes in your life so that you can strive for a happier, healthier life.
The first thing that really made me think was this:
“Be flexible when you can, but be firm when you need to be.”
Basically, be nice when you have the time and energy. It’s a wonderful thing to help others. But don’t get so caught up in trying to make other people happy that you’re becoming unhappy. When your calendar is booked, don’t start writing things on top of others. When you’re plate is full, don’t keep piling things on until it becomes so full that things start falling off. If you don’t have the time or energy, it’s okay to say no.
The other thing that really changed my perspective on saying “no” was this:
“You don’t need a reason to say ‘no’. Making time for yourself is a perfectly acceptable excuse.”
As I said earlier, I have a hard time saying “no” when I feel like I’m not doing anything. If I had plans with myself to throw on some stretchy pants, grab some popcorn and watch the Bachelor but someone needed my help with something, I would have hard time saying “no”, which usually resulted in me pushing what I wanted aside. If I had a day off (which is rare) and I was excited to nap, watch Netflix, or get creative for my blog, but I got a call from work saying that someone called off and they needed my help, I would feel like catching up on sleep, or re-watching Gilmore Girls, or creating a recipe wasn’t an adequate reason to say “no”, so I ended up going into work anyway.
But let me tell you something. Doing the things that make you happy and that help you release stress are great reasons to say “no”. Wanting to do something for yourself should still be treated like a commitment. Because it is a commitment! It’s a commitment to bettering yourself and helping yourself grow, to taking care of your mental and emotional well-being. Don’t feel like you have to set the things that bring joy into your life aside because you feel that they aren’t real reasons to say “no”. It’s okay to be a little selfish if you’re doing things that make you happy.
The other day, I was chatting with a great friend of mine about how I had been feeling and she said something that made so much sense and that I wish someone would have told me a long time ago.
“You can’t fill someone else’s cups unless your cup is full.”
If you’re someone like me, who feels like you’re being selfish for saying “no” to something so that you can focus on yourself, look at it this way. You can’t help other people if you’re exhausted and overwhelmed. Having “me time” is a way for you to give back to yourself, so that you can give back to others. Take time to re-fill your cup.
I feel like there’s a huge movement in our society to “say ‘yes’ to more things”. While I do stand behind this in the sense of “say ‘yes’ to more adventures” and “say ‘yes’ to new experiences”, I think it’s created a mentality that saying “no” is bad. I think we all need to realize that everything leads back to balance. There needs to be a balance between saying “yes” and saying “no”.
I read a newsletter that my dear friend Elisabeth sent out about saying “yes” to things that align with your goals and values. This newsletter came with perfect timing and really inspired me to compare my goals and values to the things that I’ve been consuming my time with. I encourage you to do the same. Time is short. Be selective with what you say “yes” to.
If you’ve stuck around this long, thank you. I’d like to end this ramble with one last thing.
Whether you love living a busier life, or love having an abundance of free time, and whether you’re great at saying “no” or struggle to decline things, make sure that you’re doing what’s best for you and your happiness. After all, we only get one life. Spend your life doing things that help you flourish physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.