How Saying "No" Can be Good Self-Care
In my last post, I shared about my cancer diagnosis and the healing journey I’ve been on these last few years. I’m SO grateful I caught my lymphoma early and have been able to monitor it closely. I’ve also made a lot of lifestyle changes to support my healing process.
But, I’m also human and sometimes I find myself getting caught up in old patterns that aren’t the healthiest. And in today’s post I want to share an experience I had this last summer, what I learned from it and… how it might help you, too!
Think about how it feels to have an overly full schedule. A little overwhelming, right? Trying to figure out when you’ll tackle the overflowing laundry basket and return those ten voicemails… as you navigate the demands of your work, try to be present and attentive for your family, and squeeze in some fun and self-care, too.
Last winter, while we were still living in Hawaii, I experienced the opposite. I got into a really sweet groove where I was in bed by 9:30 most nights, waking up at 5:30 to do my morning meditation and qi gong, and sitting down at my desk to begin work by 8:30 or so. Not only did I feel well-rested, happy and balanced, but I was getting tons of work done and had a really productive winter.
I also made sure to rest when I needed to and took the time to really slow down and let life unfold at a slightly slower pace. I felt really good… on all levels: physically, mentally, and spiritually.
And then… March rolled around. My husband, Patrick, and I spent 10 days in NYC with family and friends, came home to Colorado and had a houseguest for 5 days, packed up and went to Santa Fe fro two weeks, and then I flew back to Hawaii and led a 5-day private retreat and had my bi-monthly infusion at the Cancer Center the day after the retreat ended. (Whew! It makes me tired just thinking about it!)
Two days later we found out we had buyers for our Hawaii house and in less than three weeks we sold, donated or packed up an entire 2500 sq ft house. Oh yeah, in the midst of all that one of my favorite aunts died and I flew back to the Midwest (from Hawaii!) to see my family before returning to Colorado.
This fast-pace continued throughout June with more houseguests, a trip to Phoenix to see my oncologist, and a weekend river/camping trip for my beloved mother-in-law’s 80th birthday.
My husband kept saying “It’s okay to not do it all. You need to give yourself an out with some of these commitments.” And yet… an old pattern of filling my schedule too full and not saying “no” enough cropped back in. These were all things I wanted to do, too, but my body started to feel the effects of piling too much onto my plate.
I kept telling myself, “At the end of June I’m going to slow down. My body’s telling me I need to slow down.” I knew I was moving at an unsustainable pace and, with an already compromised immune system, couldn’t keep it up too much longer.
Well, as bodies will do, mine let me know before I could slow down that it had had enough!
On June 26th, my wedding anniversary, I woke up feeling exhausted and achey… almost like I had the flu. I pushed through the day, and rallied to go out for dinner and the concert we’d been planning on attending for months (Patty Griffin was playing in our little mountain town and we had danced our first dance to her song “Heavenly Day” at our wedding nine year ago to the day! How cool is that?).
But I kept telling Patrick how exhausted I felt and that something wasn’t right. Just to give you perspective, I almost fell asleep while I was taking a shower right before we went out. I was THAT tired!
“These painS you feel are messengers. Listen to them.” -Rumi
Sure enough, some routine labwork I’d done the day before and when it came back my white blood cell count had tripled. Further testing revealed I had active Epstein-Barr virus and my thyroid was all out of whack!
And that’s when I had to get fiercely compassionate with myself and say “Okay, honey, you’ve pushed it a little too far. It’s time to start taking some things off your plate and saying “no”a lot more.”
I committed to two months of not getting on a plane. Which meant missing an old friend’s wedding in Milwaukee and my 30th high school reunion.
I started taking the time to rest again. Regularly. It was the summer of many naps.
And I started saying “no” a lot more so I could say “yes” to myself.
No to too many social commitments. No to the wedding and my reunion. No to pushing my body to work out too hard on the days it really needed more rest. And no to anything that felt like it was draining my energy,
Yes to resting more, yes to time for acupuncture and other treatments that helped support my body coming back into balance, and yes to time when I could just slow down and “be” after back-to-back months of nonstop going and doing.
As the summer went on, and I deepened back into a routine of consistent rest and self-care, my energy level came back up and my body came back into a state of balance. I had to embrace my JOMO and keep that #1 priority, my health, at the forefront of all my decisions.
If you’re like me, saying no can be challenging but… there is also such a freedom in it! When we’re clear on our top values and what’s most important to us, then we can begin to prioritize where we put our precious time and energy.
Making your self-care a priority in the midst of a busy schedule
Beginning a new meditation practice or reviving your old one
Taking the time to grocery shop and make more healthy meals at home so you’re not relying on carry-out so much
Or, maybe you want to grow your business and bring some new clients on board these last few months of 2019
So as you think about your own life and what’s most important to you, I want you to ask yourself:
What do I need to say NO to in order to say YES
to what’s most important to me?
Thankfully, my energy came back up as the summer progressed and I’ve been feeling pretty darn well lately. I’m prioritizing my health and self-care and I’m in the midst of a creative surge. I’ve been hunkering down at my desk doing a LOT of writing and creating new programs and offerings that I’m excited to share later this fall and in 2020.
As you get clear on what you most want to prioritize these last few months of the year, I’d love for you to drop me a line here and let me know what those things are.
And please make sure you give yourself the support you need… ask for help, delegate, get your teenage kids to pitch in at home, hire a life coach. Whatever it takes.
Because, you are worth it. You deserve to say “yes” to yourself and have the life you want!