fingerIt’s happened again! Your brain said “No” and your mouth said “Yes.”

You managed to volunteer to (fill in the blank) at your son’s school bake sale fund-raiser. Or to go out to dinner with the neighbors that you find really draining. Or to agree to work overtime for your disorganized boss for the third weekend in a row.

You’re feeling drained, resentful and bitter and see no end to the ceaseless expectations that others have of you. How do you regain control of yourself and your life? How do you begin to say “no” and feel happy about it? Here are six tips to get you started.

1) “Let Me Think About This and Get Back to You

Write this statement on post-it notes and paste it on every phone and computer in your home and office. If you don’t feel comfortable saying an immediate “no” to a request for your help, this declaration allows a little time to think about the demand for your time and assistance. Check in with yourself and see if it’s something you really want to do. If you decide against it, you’ll have enough time to come up with a graceful way out of the commitment.

2) Pay Attention to Your Intuition

When you feel drained, bored or enervated by something — a person, a situation, a request for help, an idea — that’s your inner guidance indicating you shouldn’t move ahead. Conversely, if you feel excited, curious, energized by the request, your intuition is giving you a clear “go ahead.” Take time to tune in and get comfortable with your fabulous inner wisdom.

3) Life Balance is Important

You don’t have to apologize for setting boundaries and you don’t need an excuse. You deserve to feel good. You deserve to have energy and enthusiasm for life. Setting firm boundaries is necessary for your own self-care. It helps you keep your life and priorities in balance. When you say “no” to what you don’t want, you leave room for what you do! You’re making a commitment to yourself. What are your priorities? Ask yourself if the new commitment is important to you. If it’s something you feel strongly about, go for it. If not, gracefully decline.

5) Have Some Helpful Phrases While You’re Learning to Say “No”

Think about the situations or people you have a difficult time saying “no” to. Jot them down on a piece of paper. Perhaps it’s a church, school or work request. It may be a specific person you feel compelled to please. Be honest! The truth is always the best way to turn down a request for help that doesn’t fit your energy, interests or schedule. There are many ways to say no without saying “No.” Here are just a few:

  • “I’m so sorry. I can’t.”
  • “I can’t do X. But I’m happy to help you with Y.”
  • “I’m going to have to decline.”
  • “I can’t commit to this and do a good job.
  • “I’m sorry. I have other priorities right now.”
  • “It isn’t a good time for me to take this on. Thank you for thinking of me, though.”
  • “I’m really overbooked right now. After (date) I’ll have much more time available.

6) Watch Your Self-Talk— Diminish the “Shoulds”

So many of us are besieged by what we believe we should do versus what we want to do. If your life is filled up with too many of those “should” situations, pay attention. What are you saying to yourself? When you catch yourself telling yourself you SHOULD do this or that, stop. It’s time for a change. Begin to look at who or what gives you energy. What do you look forward to? What do you dread? Give yourself permission to do more of the former and less of the latter.

You owe it to your job, your coworkers, your family and most of all yourself to manage your time and energy in a smart and effective way. So think carefully about your life, and begin saying “Yes” to what makes you feel vital and alive!

Frustrated woman image available from Shutterstock.