“No” is a tiny little word. A simple word. An important word.
I get it, everyone has trouble saying No sometimes. And everyone talks about the fact that they can’t say No. But, it stops there. People don’t start saying No. They keep doing what they were doing, loading up their plate, filling their planners, and rushing through their days.
I’m incredibly guilty of this.
I fill my plate like it’s Thanksgiving dinner and my Dad made his famous mashed potatoes. I’ve found the busier I am, the better I feel. I love seeing a full list of things to do each day, and a busy week ahead. Business gets me excited, energized, and motivated. When I have a packed schedule, I feel more productive. I work great in a time crunch. But there’s a level of busy that does nothing but harm.
3 years ago around this time of year, I was working two jobs and going to school full time. 4 days a week, work started at Starbucks at 4:30 am, finished at 1pm, then started at a restaurant down the street at 4 pm and ended around 12:30 am. The other three days, I worked one shift, then had night classes. I used to sleep 3 hours each night, sometimes in my car in a Park & Ride.
My friends and family asked how I was holding up, and the only thing I ever told them was, “I’m fine! I feel great! I’m getting so much done! I’m good, I swear!”
I used to schedule my days down to the minute.
20 minutes to drive home from work. 30 minutes to shower and dry my hair. 2 to switch the laundry over. 10 minutes to vacuum my room. 25 minutes to cook lunch and eat. 5 minute clean up. 15 minutes to get in uniform and do my makeup. 15 minute drive to school.
I was crazy, guys. But it worked for me – for a few months. I powered through all of my school work, was doing a great at my jobs, and I enjoyed it all. I loved the hustle and bustle. But as you know, all good things must come to an end. Eventually, I started falling asleep in my Economics class. Then I got embarrassed for falling asleep, so I started skipping. Of course, I was embarrassed for skipping class, anxious about what the professor would say, so I stopped going altogether.
Soon, I couldn’t wake up and get to work on time. I would wake up at 5am, throw my uniform on, call my boss crying my eyes out because I felt I was letting my coworkers down. Then, I would stress for the first two hours of my shift, convinced I was doing a horrible job, thinking about the fact that I left my other work pants in the dryer.
Some of my regular customers started to notice.
Bob, the parking enforcement officer for the lot near my job, used to come in for a Tall Dark Roast whenever he was working. We all would give him a Venti, and in return, he wouldn’t give us a parking ticket. It was a nice little system we had going. One particularly rough morning, Bob finally asked me, “What the hell is up with you lately? Are you alright?” and all I could say was, “Yeah I’m great! Fine! All good!”
Obviously he knew I was bluffing, but went on with his day. After my shift, I walked out to my truck, and saw a bright red parking ticket under my windshield wiper. When I turned it over though, he’d written me a note, saying “Have A Better Day.” You better believe I burst into tears. In truth, I wasn’t great, fine, or all good. I was exhausted, burnt out, running on fumes. Barely bothering to go to school anymore, and definitely not getting enough sleep. I lost a bunch of weight because I was too busy to eat more than one meal a day.
Finally, I called it quits.
I left Starbucks, I took some time off of school. I continued working at the restaurant full time, but spent the rest of my days relaxing and taking care of myself.
Now, I’m starting to go back to school, and am definitely making school a priority. Between work for my class, working on this blog, trying to find a new job, and taking the best care of myself that I can, I don’t have a lot of free time lately. I’m finding myself having to practice saying No again. Right now, I’m making my own schedule, so it’s easy to say yes to going out to brunch and day trips and nights out. But, I always end up kicking myself when it’s Sunday night and I don’t have a post written.
Saying No Doesn’t Make You Selfish or Rude
If there’s anything those few months taught me, it’s that saying No isn’t a horrible thing.
I get anxious at the thought of disappointing other people. When it comes to events or activities involving others, I will almost always say Yes. If someone needs a shift covered, I’m there. If I have the opportunity to support a friend, yep, I’m there. But, when saying yes comes at the expense of time I need to get things done, or missing an opportunity for school, work, or the blog, it’s not always the best option.
I’m slowly learning that saying No is okay. Saying No to something doesn’t make you selfish. Needing to take time for yourself and your life is not selfish. It is not rude to decline an invite when you have too much homework to do, or a deadline to meet.
I know that I need to focus less on the reactions of other people, and more on my own reaction, and I’m sure many of you can relate.
Find a Balance
Sometimes, doing what’s in your own best interest is hard. Especially when it means saying no to social outings or to date nights by the fire.
Sometimes what’s best is hunkering down at your desk with a never-ending stream of hot tea, white noise, and your laptop. Sometimes, it’s sitting down, evaluating your finances, and paying all of those bills that have been staring at you for weeks.
Other times, getting out of the house is what’s best for you. Or a relaxing night in bed with a book. It’s confusing, I know. Personally, I find it really difficult to take a step back from my work and my busy days when I’m in the zone. But, a good rule of thumb, when you can tell that you’re not working to your best ability, your responsibilities are slipping, or starting to feel under the weather, step back. Your mental health should always come first.
Work is good. Relaxation is good. Both are necessary.
Find the balance that works for you.
This week, I urge you guys to take one thing off of your plate. If there’s a task that’s been nagging at you for weeks, just finish it. It will release some stress. If there’s an event you’re dreading, or a dinner that you really don’t have the time for, just say no. Because the truth is, EVERYONE needs to say no sometimes. Everyone experiences overwhelm and exhaustion. Odds are, people will understand.
Wishing you all the courage to say No to one thing this week!