Sometime post-hurricane, pre-holidays of last year, I realized that I was exhausted. Sure, we moms often function with this day-to-day sleepiness that we all seem to just accept — keep on truckin’, right? (It’s the “season of life” my co-worker friend would say.) But this exhaustion was different. It was a brain fog coupled with sadness and overwhelmingness. Was I depressed? Maybe. I definitely was sad. Sad I let myself get into this current state of crappiness. What was wrong with me? How did I get here? Then it hit me like my 6-year-old giving me a gut-punch: I was completely overcommitted, overworked and unappreciated. I was sucking at things I once was amazing at doing — because I was doing too many of those things. I had to stop and take a hard look at the situations and commitments I could control. Once I realized this, I did something I hadn’t done in a long time.
I gave myself permission to do nothing and say NO.
“No, I will not join your committee.”
“No, I will not take on another unpaid role at work.”
“No, I will not volunteer for that right now.”
My kids are 6 and 8 years old. They are perfectly able to get themselves dressed, pour their own cereal and brush their teeth. I can take a step back and allow myself to let my children grow. My husband no longer works out of town. He is perfectly capable of making dinner, doing laundry and cleaning the bathroom. I can take a step back and allow him to step up. Surprisingly, the hardest part of my journey to NO came when I had to deal with my friends and colleagues. I felt this overwhelming guilt when I had to tell my best friend that I couldn’t pick up an extra project. I felt awful when I canceled on a group of girlfriends, even though I was tired and coming off a 10-day work week. Why did I feel so bad? Well, I should have never committed in the first place. I was always so quick to say yes! I was an eager beaver and took on every project with great zeal. “I am the best! No one is better than me!” I thought. The truth was, I was probably the only poor sucker saying yes all the time.
I once read that when someone says no, it gives other people the opportunity to step up and share their gifts. That’s it — I’m going to say no so that others can say yes. After a few weeks of saying NO, I must say, I’m starting to feel like my old self again. My joy has returned, and I am truly loving the things I do. I’ve compiled a list of ways you, too, can start saying NO and start enjoying life again:
1. Don’t answer that email or phone call right away. If you’re like me, your instinct is to say, “Yes,” so we have to start retraining our brains. Ask yourself these three questions: What is the time commitment to this project? What is this going to cost me, both mentally and financially? Am I the only person who can do this? I’ve found that these simple questions can be applied to almost anything I’m approached with at my children’s school, my church, at work and at home.
2. Get moving. I hate hate HATE to exercise, so no one is more surprised than me that I would suggest this. After I say goodnight to the kids, I leash up my mutt and go for a walk. In the dark. It is still and quiet in my neighborhood. It’s just me and the dog, alone with our thoughts. There really is something to fresh air and moving feet that makes you instantly feel better. I find clearing my head at the end of the day helps me sleep better.
3. The guilt will go away. I was so concerned with the way I was being perceived by my friends and colleagues, but I didn’t see them stepping up to fill the holes. I was the one they always turned to — but my mental health couldn’t take it anymore. I thought about myself five, 10 years from now. Did it really matter in the long run? No, it didn’t.
This once controlling, planning, A+ personality momma is learning to live in the moment, and I am loving it. I am loving not having a jam-packed week full of things I never really wanted to do, anyway. Sure, there are always things I have to do (I am a grownup, after all), but I am much more careful about how I commit my time. Time is, after all, one of the most precious gifts we can give. How much do have for ourselves if we give it all away?