It’s the holiday season and that time of year that I especially want to please people. Not only do I have family and friends I want to celebrate with but I have all sorts of preparations to make those celebrations happen. The demands are high this time of year. That also means that stress is high and we all know what that means for autoimmune messes like us…flares are coming.
The logical advice we hear this time of year for coping with the additional pressure the holidays put on us as spoonies is to pace ourselves, say no, choose to take it easy. It sounds easy until you realize that every time you make a choice to rest and take it easy, you are also making a choice not to do something.
You’re turning down a person or not meeting an expectation. That’s when the ugly beast of guilt we’re all too familiar with battling seems to morph into a super-sized version of itself. How do we actually say no without the guilt of doing so stressing us out to the point that we have the same flare-ups we were trying to avoid? Let’s face it, stress is stress is stress, whether it’s from doing too much or feeling miserable because we decided not to do too much. We have to learn to say know without feeling awful. Here are a few easy tips to get you over the guilt of saying no so your rest is actually restful.
5 easy ways to get over the guilt of saying no.
1. Remember that you are saying no because you are adhering to your priorities.
My health is a priority. In fact, if I don’t take care of myself I can’t meet ANY expectations ever. Laying in bed for a week recovering from a “too many yes’s” flare does not prove to anyone that I love them more or I am a nice person. It only proves that I can over-extend myself. And it ultimately just means more no’s later because the resulting flares make yes now impossible.
The trick to getting over guilt is to realize that your health is YOUR priority. It’s not your friends, your co-workers, or fill in the blank with whoever you’re worried about disappointing here. At the end of the day after you have run out of spoons and borrowed a few from the next day it is you that has to lay in bed squirming in pain, or hanging your head in a toilet all night, or sporting that full blown rash…not them. Don’t expect others to see your health as their priority. Although it would be nice and it’s a blessing if it happens, expecting it is setting you up to fail. You don’t need other people to see it as a priority to feel good about making it your priority.
You can feel good about saying no because you know that self-care is a priority that helps you do more for others! Making choices to live by our priorities is NOT something we should feel guilty about…we should be proud!
2. Understand that every no is a yes to something better.
Having limited energy means we always have to choose the best way to spend it. The ability to choose the best yes is essential to surviving the chronic life. I physically cannot say yes to everything so I want to choose my yes’s wisely. This means that a no is actually a better yes.
I am a wife and mom so my family comes before nights out. A no to a night out is a yes to family time I would have missed recovering after that night out. If I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of my family.
When there is a person to please or expectation to meet and I have to choose to say no it is not because I am an awful person or a disappointment. It is because I recognize that I have to say no sometimes in order to say the right yes’s.
I don’t have to feel bad for saying no when I understand that a no also means I’m giving my best yes’s.
3. Admire the fact that you are advocating for yourself.
If you don’t advocate for yourself, who will? Standing up for what is best for you, especially when it comes to your health, is NOT something to feel guilty about.
The chronic illness community consists of some of the most amazing people I have ever met. You are some of the kindest, most welcoming, empathetic and understanding people in the world. So many of you have been made beautiful in your pain! Even in the midst of looming physical battles, I have never met people more worried about letting others down or being a burden. How we have gotten it into our heads that we are burdens and not blessings is beyond me. Your beauty through your unique ability to show concern and kindness is a blessing. Remember, only good people feel guilt. If only the rest of the world could be as caring as you!
Repeat after me…advocating for myself does not mean I am marginalizing others.
Saying no is usually not going to disadvantage others as much as saying yes will disadvantage you.
You are not a burden or a let down when you say no. If others choose to act hurt, angry, or disappointed it is a reflection of who they are, not who you are.
Admire the fact that you are choosing to show kindness and care for yourself by speaking out when you can’t do something. It takes absolutely no skill to wallow in negative self-talk and self-pity. On the other hand, it takes remarkable skill to remain positive about caring for yourself and the ability to speak up on your own behalf should be something that you admire about yourself. No guilt necessary.
4. Stop equating yes with pleasing people.
People are happy when they get their way and because you are a caring and lovely person you want people to be happy. It gets worse if you are like me and you hate conflict. Then you really want people to be pleased all the time so you don’t have to deal with it when they’re not!
You can’t take responsibility for another person’s happiness onto yourself. Stop taking it personally when someone is not happy or pleased (even if it is directly related to you)…you’re not now nor could you ever be the be all and end all to their happiness and pleasure anyway.
If we are going to use that erroneous logic then we should walk around constantly displeased when people aren’t making our happiness their priority. It’s the perfect formula for misery.
Saying yes might offer some temporary happiness for others but it is not going to solve their every problem or offer the meaning of life to people so stop putting so much pressure on yourself.
If you want to please people, be yourself, chronic illness and all. If that is not enough to please them then nothing else you could offer ever truly will either.
You don’t have to please everyone. Everyone doesn’t have to please you. The sooner you come to grips with it the sooner you can let go of feeling guilty.
5. Realize that you are doing your best.
You would never expect someone else to do more than their best so why is it different when we think of ourselves?
Cut yourself some slack and accept a little grace. Chronic illness means that our best is very different from those who are healthy. If you compare yourself to people who are not sick you are doing yourself an injustice.
Our best means that we offer all we can. I think we often times get into an all or nothing mentality. I am sick or I am well. I can or I can’t. But the truth is we can make compromises and something is always better than nothing. You should be proud of whatever is your best.
Sometimes our best is a flat out no. Other times it means giving the little we can and true friends will appreciate that no matter how small our best may seem. It means agreeing to stop by for a cup of tea instead of a whole dinner or picking up a mass of gift cards as presents at your pharmacy instead of spending hours at stores. Whatever the compromise is, make it. Whatever you’re best is…do it. Then you can always be proud that you are offering the best of you to people.
You can say no guilt-free.
No is a perfectly acceptable complete sentence. If it is not acceptable to someone then the problem is with them and not you. Stop caring the weight of their issues around your neck! So give up the emotional self-torture of guilt and have a happy holiday.