Saying “no” is a simple act in theory. In practice, most people tend to find it harder than meets the eye. Even when people think they’re good at saying no, requests for time, effort and energy can often plow right through the boundaries that once held firm. When this happens, it can be easy to forget the value of saying “no.”
Especially for those who struggle with anxiety — social anxiety being one of the top culprits — saying “no” can be especially difficult in-the-moment when confronted with momentary situations. That’s why it’s important to prepare and set firm boundaries that you abide by throughout your life, so that every time you say no, it gets easier.
Learning to say “no” can help you face your fears and step outside your comfort zone in safe, gradual ways so you can build better habits. This can show tremendous benefits in your relationships, your personal life and even your mental health.
Here are just a few ways that saying “no” can impact your anxiety — and maybe even enable you to feel a bit calmer overall.
One of the key components of how saying “no” helps to quell anxiety and improve your mental health is by teaching you to set healthy boundaries and prompting you to consider what those boundaries might be.
Healthy boundaries look different to everyone, and it’s important to think about what you need to say “no” to before you try to force yourself to do it all the time. This can prompt you to have a conversation with yourself about your priorities, what you want and what you know you don’t want.
Knowing Your Worth
Everyone has different anxiety triggers, but a common theme of a lot of people with anxiety is the fear of not being good enough or not being worthy — this can also be present in those with depression.
Learning to say “no” to others can be a lesson and a constant reminder that your time and effort are valuable, and that you’re worthy of determining your own priorities and putting your own needs first.
Knowing What to Expect
Another common anxiety trigger is not knowing what to expect, or unexpected things throwing you for a loop.
While it’s important to be as prepared as possible for whatever life brings, that doesn’t also mean you need to succumb to whatever is asked of you at any given moment. Learning to say “no” can allow you to examine your visions and goals day-to-day as well as over the longer term.
Sometimes, pressure in a situation can make you say “yes” when you want — or need — to say “no,” which can stunt effective communication, among other things. Learning to say “no” is a part of learning how to say what you mean and be listened to. By saying “no” and upholding your boundaries, you can further your communication skills so you can say what you need to say, even when you feel a bit anxious.
Learning That “No” Doesn’t Have to Be Rude
One of the biggest ways that saying “no” can help with anxiety is learning that saying no, declining an offer or even not being in a place to help someone at the moment isn’t the same as being rude or being a bad person. When someone asks something of you, they’re doing specifically that — asking — which leaves the ball in your court. Plus, if they’re not asking, you should have no qualms about saying “no” to people who demand things of you.
You don’t owe people an explanation or an excuse or anything of the kind. If you want, keep it brief. Phrases like, “I’d love to, but I can’t” and “I wish I could help you out, but I’m actually busy” are great ways to communicate your refusal politely and with kindness.
Creating Balance in Your Life
Saying no, especially when you set specific boundaries to live by and hold to them regularly, can be abundantly useful in helping you achieve balance in your life. By laying out your schedule and your priorities and not allowing others to dissuade you from caring for yourself, you can create a more balanced and calm life.
One of the best antidotes to anxiety is routine. Routines and balance create a sense of safety and security that puts anxiety at ease, and there’s a sense of power in being able to create that for yourself. Saying “no” isn’t the only part of creating balance in your life, but it can provide an excellent start.
Learning to Say “No” to Anxiety
Everyone’s anxiety is different, and there is no one cure that can fix it or make it go away forever. However, taking control of your power and learning to value yourself and set boundaries is a great way to manage the different symptoms of anxiety and its triggers. Overall, saying “no” when you need to is a great life skill to have, no matter who you are and what kinds of mental health trials you struggle with.
Saying “no” is an ongoing learning process, and it’s one that can help you feel more comfortable with your life, your choices and your interactions with those around you. What’s something you plan to say “no” to?
Kara Reynolds is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Momish Magazine. Mom and step mom living her best life while managing anxiety and normalizing blended families. She enjoys pilates, podcasts, and a nice pinot grigio.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.