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​Learning How To Say "No" As Self Care

Last updated February 8, 2024

A crucial part of self-care is being able to set aside time for yourself. With a regular rhythm, it’s important to be able to hold space for yourself and say no to any of the responsibilities you may have, like school, spending time with friends and family, or work. Doing so will allow you the necessary time to relax, decompress, and fill up your own cup.

We’ll show you how to politely and confidently say no to stressors when you need to, and how to create and sustain healthy boundaries with the people you care about.

Why is saying “No” important?

  1. If you’re overextending yourself, saying no is the best way to regain control of your life.
  2. Saying yes to everything can lead to burnout. If you’re burnt out, it’s hard to be the best version of yourself, produce your best work, be the best friend you can be, or get the grades you want in classes.
  3. You gain confidence when you start saying no. The first time’s always the hardest, but you’ll find the control you gain is priceless.
  4. You deserve rest and time for yourself!
  5. As we progress through cold seasons and COVID-19 spikes, you might not always be as comfortable as others doing things such as hanging out with friends or going to many different places. This is completely valid, and you should feel comfortable asking for patience as things evolve post-COVID.

How to Say “No”

Say it early!

The longer you wait to express your own boundaries, the more uncomfortable it becomes for the person asking something of you to hear it. Whether you need more time on an assignment, can’t make it to lunch with your friend, or just need some alone time, it's important to say no ASAP. This gives both you and the other person more time to readjust and make new plans that work best with your schedules.

Be honest

Setting boundaries for yourself and saying no to things you don’t want to do or don't have the time/capacity to do can go a long way with the people you care about. Being honest about the things you have going on is a valuable life skill, and can better help the people in your life understand what's on your plate and your limitations. Lying about why you can't commit to plans can cause avoidable drama and stress down the road, so it's better to always be honest. Life can be chaotic sometimes, and needing time for yourself is not a reflection of personal failure or disrespect toward the person asking something of you!

Just remember to be respectful when saying no to anyone. People might not be aware of your boundaries until you express them, so take a moment to check that the message you want to send is kind and clear.

Suggest an alternative

Setting boundaries or asking for help can look different based on who you're communicating with. If friends want to make plans that don't work for you, try offering a different time or activity that’s more in line with your interests. If you're feeling overwhelmed with your schoolwork, try asking a professor for a slightly extended deadline. Suggesting alternatives is the best way to demonstrate respect for yourself, and for the person who might want/need something from you.

Looking for more ways to practice self-care? Check out these free mental health resources for young people and other self-care content!  

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