I've done it again. I've said yes to too many things, and now my calendar is beginning to look like a pet monster I didn't ask for. Except I sort of did, because I said yes to everything.
I think most of you know what I'm talking about. You say yes to hosting a dinner because you like filling your home with friends and neighbors. You say yes to coaching the recreational soccer team because you love actively engaging in your community. You say yes to helping organize a fundraising event because it's for a cause you care deeply about, but before you know it you barely have time to take care of yourself and/or your family. No need to beat yourself up about this though. You landed in this chaos because you are an incredible person, and you find joy and fulfillment in helping others and your community.
So what do you do when the chaos monster comes creeping up behind you? I completely understand if your first instinct is to curl up in the corner and ignore reality, or get angry at the innocent friends and family around you. Believe me, I've done both. However, I think there may be an alternative option. A little something I'm calling...
Stop, drop, and breathe.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert at this, but maybe we can try it together.
If you're like me, you've already made commitments a few weeks, or months into the future. Tomorrow may not immediately calm down, but you can start laying the groundwork for a more balanced schedule by learning one word. No. Learning to say no is hard, but I promise your future self with thank you.
Here's where the stopping comes in. The next time someone asks you to do something, stop your immediate impulse to say yes. Pause for a moment, or even a few days to evaluate the pros and cons of adding one more thing to your schedule. Joining your colleagues for after work drinks may be the right decision, but you can also decide that a quiet night at home is the better one. If saying no is still causing anxiety, here are two things to think about:
You started saying no. Good job! But what about your schedule right now? Saying no only helps in the future, but your body is begging you to give it a rest soon. No one likes the feeling of walking back a commitment, but sometimes it's in your best interest (and the interests of friends and family). Is there an activity or commitment you can politely step away from, or enlist some extra help for?
I find this strategy is often easier with close friends and family who will understand because they love you. For example, your best friend will (hopefully) not be offended if you ask to reschedule your lunch date, especially if you are willing to explain your reasoning. Another way to limit the chaos is by dropping complexities. Cooking a three-course meal for your family each night is wonderful, but maybe for the next month it's okay to simplify the dinner menu. In my house, this means canned tunafish, mayo, and lettuce. Voila! Dinner is served.
This is the most important step, because sometimes you can't say no, and sometimes you can't walk away from a commitment. In these moments, remember to breathe; and not just theoretical breaths. I mean actually pause what you are doing, inhale and exhale audibly, and attempt to turn off your brain for a few moments. I happen to be a huge fan of Yoga with Adrienne, but find whatever works for you. Just remember:
Walking enthusiast, and kitchen experimenter currently living out my dream in Mexico City, Mexico.
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