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Saying No: For Your Mental Health

05 July 2021

Most of us find it difficult to say no to people, whether with family, friends, or coworkers. This may not always appear to be a significant issue, such as when a colleague wants to go out for drinks, but you know you have overdue chores to complete. Things can accumulate, such as if your employer expects you to work late every night or if your family expects something from you that you cannot fulfill in your schedule right now.

We sometimes can find ourselves saying yes to scenarios that make us feel worse emotionally, mentally, or physically - just because it seems easier to say yes than to take a stand, prioritize ourselves, risk controversy, and say no.

How come "no" is so difficult to pronounce? It's a one-word phrase with only one syllable. Despite your best efforts, when you try to say "no," you instead say "yes." However, saying yes to everything is unrealistic – and unhealthy. While saying no is frequently linked with negativity, it carries a great deal of power. From just being able to turn down unwelcome overtures to gently dismissing work requests, this single word can come in handy at any time of day.

Why do we find it hard to say no?

The human mind prefers the sensation of closure. People frequently try for the sense that everything is good and finished. People often work late, only to stay even longer when a new email arrives. They want to take care of it so that their inbox is empty the very next day.

Other reasons why some people say yes quite often:

  • To satisfy others: People pleasers might say yes to prevent feeling guilty or upsetting someone. They may act in this approach as they have a history of regret that makes them feel terrible.
  • To dodge confrontation
  • To not miss anything out: Some individuals must be there in the room where it transpires at any costs. Adding extra work to get closer to status is worthwhile for them. However, everybody has a critical point.
  • Being compulsive: Some people are driven to exaggerate it. Their minds are hard-wired to persevere, even when the task becomes overwhelming.

Reasons for saying no

The amount of acceptable requests is unlikely to decrease, and you won't be able to add additional time to your day. Are you destined to commit fully? The answer is no, at least not unless you're willing to say no. This may not be the easiest path, but it leads to stress reduction. Bear in mind that being overburdened is a personal experience. Only because your friend appears to be able to handle multiple projects with ease does not mean you ought to be able to do the same. Only you know when enough is enough for you.

So, why say no?

  • Saying no can allow you to try new stuff. You don't have to help organize the company fair forever, even though you've always done so. Saying no frees up time for you to explore other hobbies.
  • Answering no isn't always rude. Whenever you say no to a new commitment, you fulfill your previous duties and ensure that you will have enough time to dedicate to them.
  • Saying yes can isolate you from others. When you say no, you pave the way for others to find courage. You can also delegate the responsibility to someone else. It's okay if they don't do things the same way you would. They'll figure it out on their own.
  • It's unhealthy to say yes every time. When you're overcommitted and stressed out, you're more inclined to feel run-down and perhaps unwell.

When we try to do too much, we lose sight of the importance of harmony in our lives. Overdoing everything, whether it's working, exercising, or eating, can have negative results. Among the possible outcomes are:

  • Angry or resentful feelings
  • You will have less time to dedicate to hobbies that you enjoy.
  • Physical stress symptoms include muscle soreness and gastrointestinal distress.

It is not always easy to determine when saying yes will result in devastating effects. Try to observe whether tasks are slipping through your fingers or if you are breaking promises. That is a strong indication that you are overdoing it and should take a break.

What you can do

Saying no is a talent that needs to be honed. We usually have a long history of obeying authoritative persons, so we don't have much experience when we reach adulthood. We were praised for obedience as children and punished when we failed to complete a task. It's understandable if answering no to your employer sends shivers down your spine. However, it is critical to accept the difficulty that comes with saying no. If you can articulate it beautifully and strategically, everyone will benefit. It all boils down to how you express that vital but critical word.

If you find yourself at a loss for words when it comes to saying no, here are a few tips to help you make a decision:


Take a few moments practicing how you could say no to a project or promotion so you will be ready when the time comes.

Your needs come first.

Put your needs firstly, even if they are as simple as a need to breathe. You are the sole indicator of what you require and when you need it. Don't let anyone else make that decision for you. Also, don't get caught up in the quicksand of what other people would think of you if you say no - it's their right. Don't make decisions based on what other people think.

Be direct

You should not be hesitant to use the word "no." Avoid using lame alternative phrases like I don't think I can" or "I'm not sure." These could be taken as you saying yes later. Do not confuse the issue. Recognizing that you may be causing hardship for the person by saying no can be helpful. If people are not taking your no seriously the first time, say it once again. There's nothing to be humiliated about if you speak up. You may have to decline a request numerous times before the other person accepts your answer. When this happens, simply press the rewind button. Repeat your no gently, with and without your original reasoning, as needed. While politeness is preferable, you should use firmness if it does not appear to be working. Keep eye contact with others until they take anything you say seriously. 

Offer alternatives

If feasible, point the person to a resource that they may not have considered to help them relieve a burden. You can propose rethinking the plan at a later time. It might be at the end of the year, when you accomplish a task, or whenever you choose, but you can only go down this road if you know you will indeed be able to commit within that time frame. You will lose confidence if you simply procrastinate.

Be honest and respectful

Don't makeup excuses to get out of a commitment. The truth is always the most effective method to reject a family member, friend, or colleague. Many worthy causes may come knocking on your door, and it might be challenging to say no. Commending the group's efforts while stating that you are unable to commit demonstrates that you value what they are attempting to achieve.

Set boundaries

If others take you for granted, it's a good idea to create boundaries by politely asking for their approval in similar circumstances. For instance, if someone regularly rants to you about their relationship and this isn't a pleasant subject, you might just want to ask them if it's acceptable for you to talk with them about your relationship before addressing it.

Often we say yes when we mean no. We could do this to avoid the adverse effects we fear will result if we refuse. Some people want the tension to be relieved right away. Not saying "no" may also be related to low self-esteem. People who lack confidence may be more prone to desire to appear pleasant and say yes to things they don't honestly want to do.

Final Thought

Having said all that, we have all succumbed to social pressure to be liked at some point in our lives. Yet, being able to say "no" is something that we all need to master. At the very least, it has the potential to get us out of some difficult situations. And it can make us happier and healthier.