Why sometimes saying no to others means saying yes to yourself

We all experience stress, but sometimes it piles up on us until we feel like we could break.

The kids, the job, the parents, the house, the love life, the chauffeuring, the planning, the hosting, the caretaking, the schooling, the shopping — even working out or keeping up with friends can be exhausting. I can’t tell you how often, when I speak to groups about managing stress, women approach me afterward and thank me for the stress management tools.

From high executives to housewives, we have just too much on our plate, on our list. And we forget to put ourselves on it.

My job and my passion is to help people harness the power of stress and turn the pressure and challenges of their lives into something positive, something manageable and something that can enhance their well-being.

For women, especially, it often starts with one simple word: No. It is a complete sentence. No explanation necessary.

As women, we are the ultimate multi-taskers. Working, mothering, achieving, volunteering, hosting and planning. We like to say yes. We want to please. We want to be liked at the price of running ourselves ragged.

Sometimes saying no to others means saying yes to you. What would you choose if you said yes to you? Yes, to enjoying time to meditate, breathe, relax, take a bath, do nothing, read, stretch, dance, walk or paint.

I recently gave a guided imagery meditation to a large group of attendees at the Health Means Business National Summit in Washington, D.C. The theme of the conference was how good health is good for business.
During the meditation, we paused for a few minutes to be mindful and reflect on the positive in life. It was a powerful experience.

Afterward, each attendee went home with my five stress management tips:

Breathing — Take a moment and breathe slowly. Start with one minute a day, not negotiable. One minute a day starting now. Sit or stand tall to maximize the air in your lungs. Breathe in to a count of four. Breathe out to the count of six.

Anchoring affirmation — Close your eyes and bring an image of peace into your mind — maybe it’s a word, symbol, place or face — and repeat silently as you are breathing in, “I am…” Then, breathing out, “peaceful and present.”

Mindfulness — Be in the now, not in the past. Release the regrets, the sorrow, the should have/would have/could have. Don’t think to the future and the worries or the to-do list. Use your senses to help you. Notice five things around you.

Positive — Start every meeting with one good thing that happened within the past 24 hours. Smile and meet a person’s eyes as you walk in. It’s contagious.

Gratitude — Do not wait to say thank you. Be appreciative and give thanks. Start or finish every day by acknowledging (write/say/think) what you are grateful for. The list is endless.

Dr. Francoise Adan is medical director at University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network.