Learning to Say "No" is Especially Important After 60

by Stephanie Raffelock

Do you say “yes” to every invitation? Do you find yourself stressed and then realizing that you created that stress by over-scheduling yourself?

My type-A personality tends to cringe at the idea of unscheduled time. Even in my mid-60’s I am still very goal oriented.

Part of that is good – I have a sense of purpose about getting up every day. Then again, always doing is not a beneficial way to live life fully, so I’ve had to train myself in the art of saying “no.”

Familiarize Yourself with the No Word

Invitations to sit on the board of non-profits, libraries and organizations that interest you are rewarding and validating. Ditto with volunteer work or political activism.

It feels great to give something back to your community… until you accept too may invitations and you find yourself stressed or overwhelmed.

How about lunches and outings with friends? A lot of my friends no longer work, so I have the opportunity for coffee, lunch or even a hike almost daily. I cherish all of those invites, and I cannot do them all. So how do you say “no”?

If in your gut you feel tired and already spread too thin, here’s what you do: Put your lips in the form of an oval. Place your tongue behind your teeth and make an “n” sound, and then add an “o” to it. Finish the sentence with “Thank you.”

Now repeat, “No, thank you.” If you say no to that board position or to that lunch date, I promise you the world won’t end, and it won’t be the last invite you ever get.

Why is No Important

When you say no to some invitations and leave spaces in your day, you then have time for rejuvenation. Rejuvenation can look like a long, hot bath, a solitary walk in the park, sitting in the sun and watching the squirrels, enjoying a cuppa and writing in your journal, taking a nap.

These spaces give us time to process and integrate the events and experiences in our lives. Without these open spaces, we tend to become scattered and even a little frantic.

Learning to Say No: Take the Time to Reflect

When you don’t have every minute of your day filled, you have time for reflection. The world is a noisy, complicated place, and between the speed of life and the hustle, it can take bites out of your heart.

Allowing for time of reflection gives you the opportunity to tap into that place that reminds you of those things that are really important to you. I like to light a candle in the morning and sit with my cup of tea and just watch the flame.

I muse about the important things in my life and the things that I can let go of. And often I am met by a rich swirl of emotion that accompanies the people, places and things that I hold dear.

What You Tell Yourself After You Say No Colors Your Experience

I have a friend who never says no, and as a result, she has a lot to share about the bad experiences she has. “Why do you say yes, when you want to say no?” I ask her. Her usual responses go like this: “Oh, I feel so guilty if I say no,” or “If I don’t do it, who else will?”

If you find it difficult to cope with saying no to an invitation or a request, make sure to follow up with yourself with some positive self-talk.

For instance: “I’m proud of myself for saying no. I really feel like one more task would stress me out. I’m happy that I’m taking care of myself by declining that request. I said no to my friend, but I still love and appreciate her, and I know that she loves and appreciates me.” You get the idea.

Saying no doesn’t mean you don’t care about others – it means that you are a human being with limitations, and you are willing to take care of yourself in order to live a life in balance.

Do you still have trouble saying no? I’m starting to get a little bit better at saying no. How about you? Do you have difficulty saying “no,” to invitations or requests? Do you need more “self-care” time in your life to feel in balance? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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