What a Health Crisis Taught Me about Saying “No”

What a Health Crisis Taught Me about Saying “No”

It’s now just a little under a month since I had my first trip to the emergency room in years for shortness of breath and chest pain. While I’m back at work, I am most decidedly still not feeling like myself most of the time. I am dealing with many of the symptoms that took me to the emergency room on a daily basis, and although some of the fear has lessened, it has been replaced by an exhaustion that seems to invade every corner of my body and mind.

I’m in a head space very similar to when I felt myself burning out a couple of years ago shortly after I started graduate school. Everything feels like it takes two or three times the energy it normally does to do and all I really truly want is to sleep and curl up on my couch watching TV. When your energy is severely limited, the idea of where to choose to spend it all of a sudden takes on a much sharper focus.

Having to work so hard to concentrate on managing the symptoms when they do arise has made me reevaluate so many of the things that my ‘normal’ self does on a regular basis and whether it makes sense to continue doing them in light of my current health. I don’t want to limit my life because of fear, so that’s an important piece which has been somewhat of a struggle to deal with but at the same time, I now realize that I was taking on too much without thinking of the consequences down the road.

I don’t say yes to things for the sake of being busy. I know better than that, and even though I try to protect my family time as much as possible, inevitably a new opportunity will arise, and I am seldom one to turn it down. I enjoy feeling useful and contributing highly to my work and the people around me but being forced to reevaluate where my priorities lie has allowed me to see that I’ve been exhausting myself needlessly by saying yes to too many people and things.

Unless it would be truly earth-shattering to do, it’s completely ok to stop doing things that aren’t bringing you the kind of happiness or fulfillment that you thought initially. For me, this has been the case with softball. My experience for many reasons has been a disappointment, and I am giving myself permission to let it go for the time being. Same with serving on various committees; am I excited to go and give my input, or does it feel like a drag when I have to interrupt my day to go to one of these meetings?

Even the pace of some of the things you do enjoy can use a tweaking here and there. Writing has been and continues to be extremely therapeutic for me, but I have been neglecting to do more of the journal writing which is extremely calming and relaxing in favor of publishing articles on wellbeing on different sites. It’s not about abandoning something you love, but realizing that a different season in life might call for an adjustment of how you use your time and then following through with kindness once you do make that choice rather than guilt.

Is there anything you’re proudly saying ‘no’ to? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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