Stress Relief: When and How to Say No

Stress Relief


Although it may seem easier to agree, have you considered the impact on your peace of mind? Opting to say no could be a healthier choice for managing stress, and here’s why. Are you feeling overwhelmed with looming deadlines and an endless list of commitments? Attempting to squeeze too many activities into a limited timeframe can add to your stress levels. Remember that saying no is a valid response.


Why say no?

Is your to-do list overflowing with worthy requests? It’s unlikely that these demands will decrease, and you can’t magically create more time in your day. So, are you destined to remain overcommitted? The answer is no, but it requires the willingness to say no. Although it may not be the easiest route, it’s a path to stress relief.

Remember that each person has their own capacity for handling workloads. Just because your colleague can juggle multiple committees with ease, it doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Only you can determine what’s too much for you, based on your mental and physical limits.


Consider the following reasons for saying no:

  • Declining a new commitment isn’t necessarily selfish. It’s an opportunity to honour your existing obligations and ensure that you can give them the high-quality attention they deserve.
  • Saying no can create space for new experiences. Just because you’ve always been responsible for organizing the company’s softball tournament, it doesn’t mean you have to do it forever. Saying no can allow you to explore other interests.
  • Agreeing to everything isn’t healthy. When you’re overloaded with commitments and experiencing excessive stress, you’re more likely to feel drained and potentially become ill.
  • Saying yes can exclude others. Conversely, when you say no, you’re opening the opportunity for someone else to step up. Alternatively, you could delegate the task to someone else. They may not approach it in the same way as you, but that’s okay. They’ll find their own approach.


When to say no.

Determining which activities deserve your time and attention can be challenging. Here are some strategies to help evaluate obligations and opportunities that come your way:

  • Prioritize what’s important. Keep your focus on what matters most by examining your obligations and priorities before agreeing to any new commitments. Consider whether the new activity aligns with your personal values and goals. If it does, go for it. If not, it’s okay to decline.
  • Consider the yes-to-stress ratio. Evaluate whether the new commitment is a short- or long-term investment of your time. For example, baking cookies for a school bake sale is a quick and manageable commitment, whereas leading a fundraising committee could mean months of added stress. Don’t agree to something that will cause significant stress. Look for other ways to help instead.
  • Avoid feeling guilty. Don’t agree to a request out of guilt or obligation. This will likely lead to additional stress and resentment. Instead, only agree to commitments that genuinely interest you and align with your priorities.
  • Take your time. Before agreeing to a request, take a day to think about it and how it fits in with your current obligations. If you can’t wait a day, at least take a few minutes to consider the request before responding. This will help you make informed decisions and avoid overcommitting yourself.


How to say no.

It’s amazing how much power the word “no” can hold. However, there will be times when it’s not that easy. Here are some things to consider when you need to say no:

  • Use the word “no”. Don’t hesitate to use the word “no”. Avoid using ambiguous phrases such as “I’m not sure” or “I don’t think I can,” as these could be misinterpreted as a possibility of saying yes later.
  • Keep it brief. Explain why you can’t accept the request but avoid being overly elaborate. Be clear and confident.
    Be honest. Don’t makeup excuses to get out of an obligation. Being truthful is the best way to turn down a friend, family member, or co-worker.
  • Be respectful. It can be hard to turn down a good cause, so show your appreciation for their efforts. Thank them for the opportunity and politely decline by saying you have a full schedule now.
  • Be ready to repeat yourself. You may need to refuse a request more than once before the other person accepts your response. When this happens, calmly repeat your answer, with or without your original explanation, as many times as necessary.


Getting Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, it can be beneficial to seek help from a therapist. With the rise of online telehealth, therapy is more accessible than ever before. Online therapy allows you to connect with a licensed therapist from the comfort of your own home, making it easier to fit into your busy schedule. Plus, telehealth services are often more affordable than traditional in-person therapy sessions. If you’re struggling to say no and manage your commitments, a therapist can provide helpful techniques and coping strategies to alleviate your stress. Don’t hesitate to reach out and seek help when you need it.



In conclusion, saying no is a powerful tool for managing stress and preventing burnout. It can be difficult to turn down requests and commitments, but it’s important to prioritize your mental and physical health. By using strategies to evaluate obligations, being honest and respectful when saying no, and seeking help from a therapist when needed, you can reduce stress and lead a more balanced life. Remember, it’s okay to put yourself first and say no when necessary.

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