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Help: Teach me how to say no

Sarah Elkins is an editor of We Are Kathy. She lives with her husband, dog and two cats in Flint, MI.

Photo by Jen Veloso

Real talk: I suck at saying no. It's not an exaggeration. If you know me at all, you know I want everyone to be happy.

But now at 30 years old, it's time to make a change. There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a person your friends and family can count on. But when it gets to the point where my obligations turn into stress and anxiety, I want something different, something better.

My typical response to “How are you?” is “Good. Busy but good.” Any now every time I say it, I cringe. Shouldn't I have more to say about my life?

I don’t know how many times I say when life gets less crazy I’ll get to this activity or go see that friend. But reality is I choose the chaos. I choose the busy. As a woman I think I feel the need to do everything and be everything to everybody. I don’t want to let anyone down and I don’t want to say I can’t handle something. I don’t want the things that matter, that make a difference to not be a priority. The problem, however, is that all the things I make myself believe I’m responsible for add up to the point where stress rules my life.

My current reality is that I’m simply too busy. And I'm not OK with it.

I want time to sit and recharge. I want to time to be spontaneous with my husband. I want time to make last minute plans with friends and family. I want to make memories that don’t require every last minute planned out to make sure I have time for everything in my life.

I'm not alone in the feeling of being busy. It seems to be the true American way (check out this interesting blog post on the topic here). But I can at least change the way I see my life.

Photo by Jen Veloso

I love what I do for a job. I truly feel like I get to help make a difference every day. But I spend a lot of my waking hours doing my job or thinking about my job. So I want the other remaining hours to count. I think there is so much impact that can be made by being present and leaving room for the extras in your life. I want room for movie nights, long conversations and dreaming big. I want room to help a friend when they need it. I want room to leave town and experience something new. I want to fully be present when at dinner with a friend instead of thinking of everything else I need to do that day or even the next. I want more time for We Are Kathy to tell more amazing stories.

But once again I’m so bogged down by all the things I make myself believe I need to get done that sometimes I literally do none of it. That seems to be counter productive and so far from what I’m actually trying to do. I find myself thinking about all the things that need to get done tomorrow or next week that I stop enjoying whatever it is that I’m doing today.

I don’t want to look back and just remember all the reasons I was stressed. So to everyone reading this, tell me what has worked for you!

Seriously. What small or big steps helped you carve more time in your life? What helped you enjoy the day to day things and really be present? Help me say no to some things and yes to others!

Maybe we can all start making a change together.

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