The one word that can give you back your free time
Managing Your Stress
Part One: Overscheduled and Overwhelmed
Topic: saying “no”
Are you free for a family dinner Thursday night?
Can you volunteer for the event next weekend?
Will you be the project leader?
Can you watch my dog while I’m away next week?
Will you be my maid of honor?
Can you host Thanksgiving this year?
Sure, friends and family are important pillars in our lives — they make our lives worth living — but it’s okay to say “no” to them any time or all the time as long as you’re doing what’s best for your mental health.
Last week, I talked about organization and how important it is to schedule out your time in order to get everything done, but what happens when you can’t plan your way out of a busy schedule? What happens when you simply have too much to get done?
I’m going to be brutally honest with you: There are only 24 hours in the day, and there is no way you can do it all.
You have to pick what’s most important to you.
Did you read that correctly? TO YOU. Not what’s most important to others, but what’s most important to you.
If it’s not important to you to host Thanksgiving dinner, don’t do it. However, if it is important to you to attend a family dinner, then be there.
But please, don’t make time for something you don’t care about; don’t stress out over a schedule full of things that don’t make you happy.
Some obligations/responsibilities are always on the schedule — a job, school, a romantic relationship, children. They don’t go away, and they require most of your time.
Which is why you want to fill the time that’s left with things that make you happy. Maybe you really want to volunteer for a charity event, but if you’re just doing it to add to your resume — and you know it will stress you out to find the time to volunteer — don’t do it.
Add something else to the resume. What’s something you would actually enjoy?
Some of my peers at college join every club and honors society they can, stretching themselves way too thin with the hopes of landing an amazing job post-graduation, but I don’t. I run races instead because running is my favorite thing. Rather than a list of clubs and societies on my resume, I have a list of races. Yes, training for a half-marathon takes hours each day for months at a time, but I would much rather spend an hour on a treadmill than an hour at a club meeting.
Don’t try to impress others with a list of respectable activities. Do activities that make you happy. It’s not about looking good to others; it’s about feeling good and being your best self.
Don’t fall for a guilt trip either. Just because your friend watched your dog last year when you went to Florida doesn’t mean you have to watch hers. Just because all of your other siblings have hosted Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t mean that it’s now your turn. Just because she was you best friend in high school and college doesn’t mean you have to be her maid of honor.
People love to convince you that you’re obligated to some unspoken agreement, but you’re not. You can say “no,” and I promise that the world will keep on turning. Those people may even gain respect for you because you stood up for yourself, your time, and the health of your overwhelmed brain! If they don’t respect your “no,” and they keep on pushing, maybe it’s time to distance yourself from them. If you don’t, you’ll either keeping saying “yes” when you really don’t have the time, or you’ll waste your time feeling guilty.
I’m not saying you should never do something just to be nice, but you know your limits; you know what you can handle; you know the time that you have. Find your own way to be nice even if you only have the time to do something small.
But above all, put your mental health first. People may see it as selfish, but really, you can’t be a good friend or family member if you’re constantly oversheduled and overwhelmed.
Hopefully your friend realizes that your office hours don’t afford you the time to repay the favor but that you’d be happy to pop over one afternoon to take her dog on a long walk. Hopefully your best friend realizes that you’ll be a much happier presence at her wedding as a guest rather than as a member of the wedding party. Hopefully your family realizes that you’ll be in a much better mood to bond and reminisce if you attend Thanksgiving dinner and bring along a side dish rather than hosting and cooking the whole meal.
Hopefully they’ll realize, but, in my experience, you have to speak up for them to realize. Oftentimes speaking up doesn’t even work.
You have to be okay with your friends and family being upset because after a while, they’ll think back to what you said, and it’ll finally click. They’ll think, “Maybe she really is just too busy. She’s always rushing from one thing to another, so I guess she isn’t just a lazy, selfish person after all.”
And if they still don’t get it after you tell them about your easily stressed brain and your lack of time and after they see you rushing around, you’re just going to have to be okay with them thinking less of you. At least you’ll have more time; at least you won’t be overwhelmed; at least you’ll be happy!
When have you said “no” before? Were you made to feel guilty? Tell me about your experience. Thanks for reading!
To read a similar post about when it’s okay to put yourself first, click here.