As a mother and a military wife, I find that sometimes I’m just burnt out.

Life is busy, to say the least. And because of my busyness, there are days that I forget to take care of myself. Self-care has been something that I have been working on for many years, and I’m glad to say that I’ve found a healthy balance. But there are days when life gets in the way and self-care takes a backseat to responsibilities and other people’s needs.

I’ve learned recently that my biggest form of self-care has been through the art of saying no. 

No on red background
Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

I’m an Enneagram 8, and that is lovingly called “The Challenger”. My personality type means that I often find myself trying to do everything and anything, all at once. I also find that often times when this is the behavior I’m exhibiting, I’m exhausted from trying to appease everyone.

Something that has been extremely important to my personal development is realizing that self-care has many definitions: anything from pampering yourself, taking a moment of stillness, or just sitting in the car for an extra second. But most importantly, saying no is a vital component of self-care.

In today’s society, busyness has been glorified.

tweet talking about work life and busyness
📸 Scary Mommy and @bougiepsychic

We’re taught that you need to be a “yes man,” someone that is always on. We’ve continuously told ourselves that being busy is equivalent to being ambitious and successful. We’ve developed a notion that self-care is selfish and that we always need more. More work, more money, more friends, more time, more validation, more on our to-do lists, more things.

The art of saying no has become something that has taken years to learn, and if I’m being honest, I’m still working on it. It’s something that has to be applied before it can be perfected. And I didn’t realize how much I needed it until my busyness turned into burnout.

The art of saying no comes in many forms.

Saying no more items on my to-do list.

Saying no to phone calls when I’m taking a minute to myself.

Saying no to self-criticism.

Saying no to friendships that aren’t life-giving.

Saying no to my kids when they scream for ice cream.

Saying no when I get in my head about something.

I’ve learned that just saying no requires constant practice, especially when you’re a yes person.

I’ve always had serious FOMO (fear of missing out) so saying no always felt like I was losing opportunities in some capacity. Saying no to more work meant saying no to more recognition. Saying no to a night out meant missing out on a night of memories. Saying no to people meant having fewer friends.

But as I’ve grown older, I think I’ve realized that the art of saying no has actually given me more opportunity, not less. 

women embracing as friendsBy saying no to toxic people I’ve had more room to deepen my good friendships, and it’s opened me up to finding people who are actually life-giving versus life-draining. Saying no to more work gives me the time to focus on the work I do have, and to do it well. Saying no to a night out gives me more time to spend developing relationships with my family. And saying no to myself when I get in my head reminds me to give myself a little more credit where credit is due.

Being busy keeps you from being able to examine life. And though it may be a full life, it’s not necessarily fulfilling. Blaise Pascal said,

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.

And I’m not saying that busy seasons of life are all bad. New parents know busy is a season. Work has busy seasons. Life is filled with busy seasons, but they’re just seasons. Busy seasons are different than a busy life.

There’s a lot of grace that comes with giving yourself a break and slowing down. And there are a lot of opportunities to be found when you give depth to your yeses and learn the art of saying no.