One little word

Individual Therapy Bethesda MD

Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, stop…and take a deep breath. While you’re at it, take stock of your current situation. Where are you right now? What/who are you engaged with at this moment? Are you sitting at your desk in the middle of a hectic work day? Are you en route to a meeting? Are you reading this post while also attempting to complete five other tasks? Indulge me and think about this on a meta-level—what are you actually doing? How have you spent your morning? What do you have planned for the rest of the day? What about tomorrow? How about the next week?

Okay great, now that we’ve gained some perspective, let’s think about this: how do you feel about this hodgepodge of tasks/responsibilities/obligations? Were the things that are hogging the real estate on your calendar scheduled of your own volition? In other words, did you make an intentional and willing choice to satisfy these demands? If your answer is yes, that’s wonderful; I hope you feel fulfilled, even in the midst of inevitable stressful periods. If your answer is absolutely not (or some variation of it), keep reading.

If you feel stressed, overwhelmed, overburdened, burnt out, frazzled, or all of the above, allow me to reacquaint you with one of the most misunderstood and underestimated words in the English language: no. The word, no, is often conflated with negativity, but the two are not one and the same. Negativity sucks the life out of a room; it often commands attention, but leaves everyone feeling heavy and dissatisfied after even brief exposure to it. The act of saying no, on the other hand, can be simultaneously empowering, fulfilling, and inspirational to yourself and to those around you. Doing so erects an invisible barrier between you and the outside world, providing an opportunity to protect yourself, protect your values, and protect the ones you hold dear. It signifies clarity, intention, and a sense of purpose—isn’t that what we’re all striving to achieve?

So with that in mind, here are just a few things that can happen when you say no in response to a new project or demand:

  • Protect time for your own self-care – go for a run, watch a movie, read a book, use that spare time to do something just for you
  • Spare your mental and emotional health by refraining from adding yet another responsibility that may lead to stress and fatigue
  • Create opportunities for quality time with your partner and/or child(ren)
  • Allow space, time, and mental fortitude for deep work (i.e., intentional, uninterrupted focus on a complex task)
  • Strengthen your own self-advocacy skills (oftentimes, we refrain from saying no, even if the request makes us uncomfortable; by saying no, you cultivate confidence in your ability to pay attention to—and honor—your inner dialogue)

This list is not exhaustive, by any means. I encourage you to think of more ways that incorporating no into your vocabulary could instigate change.

As a brief aside, it’s important to note that there is tremendous power in that other little word: yes. I’ll save that for another blog post another day, but make no mistake about it, beautiful things can result from saying yes more often.

I found it important to highlight no right now because it is so frequently overlooked and underutilized, particularly in the context of self-care and maintaining meaningful connections with self and others. Think about it: how often do you put meeting others’ demands over addressing your own physical, emotional, and psychological needs? I’m willing to bet that a good number of you reading this will answer with some variation of “often”.

So harness no and prepare yourself for the joy that it may bring. Such power lies in that two-letter, monosyllabic word. Let’s bring it back, shall we?

Shy Porter, MS, LGMFT provides individual, couple, and family therapy in our downtown Bethesda office. Call 240-752-7650 or email to schedule your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation with Shy.

Phone: MD: 240-752-7650
4905 Del Ray Avenue, Suite 301
Bethesda, MD 20814