Just say no...to adding more to your calendar.
We've all been there. Someone asks you to go to an event or out to a party. Part of you thinks it sounds fun but the thought of doing "one more thing" this weekend feels awful. You're exhausted or you'd rather do something else.
So, let's practice saying "no" to "extracurriculars" that you just don't feel like doing. And, as a member of the "Drug-free Class of 2000," I feel specifically qualified to give you this permission. (And no, you don't need my permission or a t-shirt.)
Why am I picking on full calendars? To be honest, because saying "no" is very difficult for me. And it may be difficult for you, too. And because it's back to school month in Lake Oswego. Parents are both panicking and rejoicing. Ok, that might be an exaggeration; Iam both panicking and rejoicing. Gone are the relaxed Summer schedules that allowed camping and concerts. And gone are the Sunday evening bouts of anxiety that I had when scrambling to find consistent childcare. Although I am happy that Maya is back in school, a new school year comes with mixed feelings. I miss my little buddy.
Yet, part of me is excited that I might have more time to myself or at least more focused time at work, without my little “helper” in the office. Yet that same part of me misses checking on Maya between patients while she expertly juggles her favorite activities: coloring, humming and watching her favorite movie.
The start of a new school year is a transition for both children and parents. And perhaps some of us think that since the kids are back in school, we might get hours of our lives back. Maybe you’ll plan on doing more “self-care.” I had a momentary thought of adding more "self-care," too. Then part of me cringed and retracted. The topic of “self-care” was made popular by doctors in the 50s and more recently by social media influencers. Don’t get me wrong. We need to take care of ourselves. But does that mean scheduling more outings, events, dinners, travel and activities? To me, that just adds more items to my “to-do" list. And that feels overwhelming. I want to do less but feel better. How do I do that?
What sounds better to me is to simplify. Cut things out. Right now, "self-care" means listening to my body when I feel tightness in my throat, start shallow-breathing and thinking of reasons why I can't. It’s saying "no," even when it means potentially letting someone down. It’s trusting myself when I feel too tired to go out with friends or take on another project. It's hard to "miss out" but necessary.
For example, today, I felt like organizing my garage. It will make me happy to park my car in it and not see stacks of cardboard boxes and overflowing cupboards. I have to decline more "fun" activities but that’s okay. It’s what I want. And that feels scary and uncomfortable and cool. Kind of rebellious. Kind of edgy, if I may. I get to choose what I do with my time and that feels like freedom. That feels like self-care. It almost feels like self-love. But let's not get carried away!
Perhaps you're like me and you need help saying "no" to what others want and instead, recognizing your own needs. Well, you're in luck. There’s actually a book to help us out. And thank goodness it's simply entitled Real Self-Care. I love it because the author, Pooja Lakshmin, MD, seems to let me off the hook. Dr. Lakshmin begins with the premise that we can't possibly "do it all" and that real self-care involves asking yourself what feels good to you. Yes, a new concept for me, too!
It might take more emotionaleffort than going to that new restaurant with friends. And it just might lead to more feelings of peace and contentment.
Plus, you don't even have to read the book. Download Dr. Lakshmin's book on Audible and listen while you walk the dog or do the dishes. You didn't think that I would add more to your list, did you?
And, maybe you can just learn to start saying "no." Say "no" in the mirror, if you must! It will feel uncomfortable at first. It will feel like you're doing something wrong. You might even feel guilty. But tolerate the guilt. It's okay. It might just let your over-booked friend(s) off the hook, too!
As always, thank you for doing this with me!