Practicing Self-Care by Learning How to Say No

Guest Blog by Grounded Warrior Member: Christine Y

My self-care routine? I wish I could tell you I drink room-temperature, filtered water with lime and Himalayan sea salt every morning (sounds lovely) or stretch after every run (nope!). In truth, my self-care  for the last few months has been the - sometimes messy, increasingly rewarding - practice of setting boundaries.

In pursuit of being nice, I said yes when I wanted to reply no. I spent time with friends and family who did not make me feel good about myself. I pursued romantic relationships in which I felt like I gave and gave and it was never enough.

In the last year, I realized that I pushed down what I really wanted to say and do for the sake of fitting in. Further, my inability to articulate my sincere wants and needs denied the people in my life a chance to authentically know me and care for me. I am a person who needs a lot of alone time. Trouble was I had no idea how to set a boundary. No idea how to protect my mental and physical space.

I decided to start small.

  1. Pause before responding
  2. Politely decline without elaborate excuse

When offered an invitation to spend time with a friend or family member, I’m trying to pause before answering. It’s easiest over text. I can wait ten minutes and listen to my intuition. And sometimes my gut tells me this particular friend can be very negative and I’m not feeling strong enough to face her without absorbing her drama like a sponge. In person invitations are trickier. I want to respond yes immediately so people will like me! I’m experimenting with, “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” I give myself a little space to weigh how to best spend my time for my own peace and growth.

But how to decline when my inner voice urges, stay home and watch Animal Planet? In the past, I would develop elaborate excuses why I had to bail at the last minute – a migraine, an overdrawn checking account, a dinosaur blocking my street. As part of boundary setting I’m learning to say no gently and without discussion. I may reply, “Oh, thank you for thinking of me but I’m booked.” And that’s it. Of course, as soon as I hit send I think my friend must hate me. She will never speak to me again. And she probably is disappointed for a bit. But I’ve also given her a chance to care for me in very real way, by giving me some time and space.

So, my new self-care exercise allows me some space for maintenance and permission to rest. Sometimes my approach is clumsy. Sometimes I get it wrong and end up across the dinner table from a real doozy. I suppose that’s why it’s called a practice.

Christine is a professional research librarian and avid runner living in Boston. She hopes someday to run a sub-four-hour marathon. Christine enjoys yoga, cooking and reality TV competitions. She is the proud guardian of a fat and chatty gray tiger cat.