Stressed Out?

I know that many have heard about the power of “yes”, but have you ever thought about or considered the power of “no”?

Did you know that this last Tuesday (October 10th) was World Mental Health Day? This day of awareness was started in 1992 by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) and after doing a little more research on this wonderful organization, I discovered that founder George Brock Chisholm was quoted stating “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. This is the creed that I have been taught to live by and pretty much sums up everything that I stand for and do, and he said it in the 1940’s! This was a man ahead of his time. But I digress…

Oh yes… World Mental Health Day. One of the more prominent concerns that can have an effect on our mental health is one that affects us all. Stress, or more importantly, chronic stress. While stress itself can lead to things like headaches, high blood pressure, digestive issues and troubles sleeping, chronic stress leads to more serious issues like cardiovascular dysfunctions, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders and mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders. It’s just a big circle people! 

Stress levels in everyday life are rapidly rising to the point that we needed a mental health awareness day! And I am inspired to see public figures are now speaking out about their own personal struggles with these issues. Simone Biles withdrew from the 2020 Olympic Games to focus on her mental health. In the same year, Prince Harry and Megan Markle stepped away from the British throne to preserve their own psychological well-being. These are just a few of the many that are bravely making it ok for us all to realize that chronic stress is not a good thing, that it needs to be dealt with and that the preservation of one’s mental health and well-being should be an absolute priority.

But my stress is not THAT bad you say. No, most of us don’t have pressures like an Olympic performance and we are not constantly scrutinized as public figures, but that does not mean that we don’t have our own personal loads of stress to deal with. It’s all relative people. With job demands stretching way beyond the 9 to 5 and family responsibilities and commitments skyrocketing, the stress levels of the average American are at an all time high, and our physical health is suffering because of it.

While there are a myriad of ways to deal with this stress, some of them healthy and some not as much, there is one simple word that can often alleviate a great deal of it… “no”. 

What should I say ‘no’ to you ask? 

-Say ‘no’ to that book that still hasn’t enthralled you by the third chapter. There is another one out there that is more worthy of your time.

-Say ‘no’ to that position on the PTO that they’re begging you to take. Truly, someone else can fill it.

-Say ‘no’ to the toxic people in your life. Negative (and positive!) vibes are contagious and we need all of the good vibes we can get.

-Say ‘no’ to that extra social event that friend invited you to. FOMO is real, but so is the need for downtime.

-Say ‘no’ to those two or three adult beverages at the end of the day. The alcohol may “help” you in the moment, but it’s really only making it worse.

-Say ‘no’ to that text or email sent outside of reasonable work hours. Chances are it can wait.

-Say ‘no’ to being too busy to take a break. Fill your cup back up a bit so you have more to give to those that matter.

I mean after all, if Simone Biles can say “no” to the Olympics, surely you can say “no” to that text from a client sent at 9pm. They may end up actually appreciating the boundaries that you set, and boundaries are oh so important.

Saying ‘no’ sets these boundaries and allows you to take control of your time and this sense of control can be a small step in relieving some of the stress in your life. It’s always important to remember however that lasting change happens in small gradual steps and occurs over time. This is not an overnight phenomenon. 

But what if I can’t say ‘no’?

It’s also important to remember that many times, the sources of our stress are unavoidable. This is where we can counteract its nasty effects by saying ‘yes’ to things like exercise (aka “moving your meat”), getting more sleep, eating more nourishing foods, practicing mindfulness (a brilliant way to learn how to control your attention), and leisure activities that you truly enjoy. These are only a few of the small choices that can begin to minimize the effects of stress on your body and mind.

But really, we’re talking about ‘no’ here. 

So let’s start saying ‘no’ to the things that do not enhance our lives and nourish our souls. Say ‘no’ to the added stress of it all, I mean, don’t we have enough stress already? Our time is precious and life is short. After all, we only have one life, so let’s make it a good one.