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Prioritizing Mental Health: A student reflects on the difficulties of saying “no.”

Saying no may be one of the hardest things a person has to do. I always find myself struggling to say no to someone who needs me, or even if someone just asks to hang out. I struggle a lot with this word, and the fear that if I say no to someone, I would be letting them down in some capacity, and it makes me feel awful. 

There is no easy way to train yourself to say no, believe me, I have tried. However, saying no can be a vital part of maintaining one’s mental health. “No” can be used in any situation, such as turning down an overtime shift, or even just hanging out with your friends.

I love my friends, and I love spending time with them, but sometimes life becomes overwhelming, and I need to allow myself to say no to making plans. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like them, or don’t want to spend time with them. It just means I need to be able to make time for myself before getting back into the world again.

I am very much an introvert, and staying in my room and spending time alone with myself is something I need to do to recharge my social battery. Being able to say no to situations that will deny me time to myself is something that I need to be better at so I avoid overloading myself. 

Saying no is not a form of weakness. It does not indicate that you don’t care, and it should not be something that you feel bad for saying. Using the word “no” sets boundaries in relationships, and allows people to acknowledge their comfort levels in a safe way.

Saying no to people has been one of the best things I have done for myself, and not saying no is one of the most detrimental things I have done for my mental health. 

This is not to say that saying yes is a bad thing. Saying yes to things you want to do and things that you know will make you happy is great. Using the world “yes” is not something someone should refrain from doing. However, being able to say no in situations where you don’t want to do something, or don’t have the energy to do something, is completely valid and should be respected. 

In the right situation, saying yes can be just as fulfilling as saying no. It simply depends on the situation, and your mental state. For me, staying in is what helps me with my mental health. For others, it could be the opposite and going out helps them, which is perfectly fine. Everyone is different, so it makes sense that healing our mental health is not a “one size fits all.”

Having to say no to a friend, especially who is hurting, is hard. But in order to be there for someone else, you step up for yourself first. Saying no allows you the opportunity to breathe and regroup, so you are able to help someone else in the future. If a person takes on the worries and responsibilities of themselves and others, then they are going to run themselves into the ground. An overload of much stress, especially when it is more than your own, is a lot for just one person. Not to mention, incredibly unhealthy. Saying no gives you the power to control your responsibilities.

All of this being said, I am terrible at saying no for myself. I am a people pleaser, and I will overexert myself and my energy if I get caught up in saying “yes.” I am scared and anxious that I will let the people closest to me down, and if I say no, they will never ask me to do something for them or with them again. If that is the reality, and your friends stop asking you to spend time together after one “no,” then maybe you need to find different friends.  But I urge you to remember;  saying no every so often for yourself is not a bad thing, and should not be viewed as such.  Saying no gives an individual the space to regroup and refocus, so they can say yes the next time. 

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