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​Learning How To Say "No" As Self Care

Last updated February 22, 2022

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 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 space to relax, decompress, and fill up your own cup. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to politely, inoffensively say “No!” to stressors when you need to, and how to create healthy boundaries with the people you care about. 

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 that “No.” 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 you have going on. Lying about why you can't commit to plans can cause drama and stress down the road, so it's better to always be honest. If there's anything that the past two years have taught us, it's that life can be chaotic sometimes, and needing time for yourself is not a reflection of personal failure or disrespect for 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. 

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 or teaching assistant 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.

Why saying “No” is so 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, you won’t produce your best work, be the best friend you can be, get the grades you want in classes, etc.
  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 time for yourself!
  5. As things open back up, you might not be as comfortable as others to get right back into things like 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. 

Looking for more ways to practice self-care? Or calming activities to occupy yourself with all the free-time you’ll have once you harness the power of saying “No?” Check out these 15 calming exercises and hobbies, this beginner’s guide on how to practice meditation, and these free resources for young people to access therapy, and more. 

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