If you search Google for advice on how to avoid burnout, you’ll find a lot of articles with many tips and strategies.
The problem is, when you’re already stressed out and teetering on the edge of burnout, you don’t really have the energy to learn and apply a myriad of strategies. What if they don’t work for you? Then you’ve got to start over, only then you’re that much closer to burnout.
Here’s the truth:
Avoiding burnout takes one word.
I know what you’re thinking.
It can’t be so simple.
But it really is. Let’s take a look.
If you’re like most women, you’re probably used to doing everything you’re asked to do – and do it very well – but each time you add on a new commitment or responsibility, you heap more stress into your life… and chronic stress can lead to burnout.
I bet my experience will resonate with you: in my local community, I served on a couple of boards and chaired several committees. I kept agreeing to more assignments. Before long I had active roles on more than a dozen committees. Many of my waking hours were consumed with committee and board tasks. No matter how early I started or how late I stayed up, I never caught up.
Ironically, I had started my own business to give me flexibility in my life – but because I kept saying Yes, I had no time left for myself.
One morning I was so exhausted that I grabbed a bottle of what I thought were eye drops and dripped the liquid into my eyes. Imagine my shock when it turned out to be the wrong medication. It seared my eyeballs. I almost blinded myself.
Thankfully, after a trip to the doctor’s office, I recovered. But I was forced to acknowledge that I had seriously overcommitted myself. And I was no longer willing to keep saying Yes to everything being asked of me.
By now you can probably guess what the one simple word is that can keep you from burnout:
Short and sweet, right? But there’s a catch.
You have to be willing to say it.
Isn’t it astonishing how many of us successful women say Yes when we really mean No?
You want to decline. You practice saying it out loud: “No”.
But when the time comes to say it, you can’t. There are many possible reasons: you don’t want to be disliked; you feel guilty; or, you believe you should be helping others. Perhaps you don’t value yourself and your time.
Then, once again, you find yourself saying Yes when your entire inner voice is shouting NO!
If you’re challenged to say No to other people, you’re not alone. Many successful women I know have this issue.
When you say Yes when you really mean No, there’s usually more going on beneath the surface. Perhaps you want to please others, or you feel so guilty about saying No that Yes slips out in its place.
Nearly blinding myself because of a mistake made as a result of chronic stress taught me how important it is to say No when I need to, and to only say Yes when I really mean it.
Not only does this keep me in integrity with other people, and myself, I was able to stop feeling depleted and resentful. I made it my mission to learn how to say No… and Yes, when I truly wanted to… and to let go of my people-pleasing behavior.
I don’t want you to reach the point where you’re so exhausted and close to burnout that you nearly blind yourself, like I did.
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take right away to shift yourself from overcommitted and on the path to burnout to back in balance in your life.
Though it sounds counterintuitive, the best way to begin to say No is to actually acknowledge the times when you want to say it but are tempted to say Yes. The act of acknowledging a behavior actually frees you from its grip. Once you acknowledge these Yes/No times, you’ll find it easier to say No when you choose to.
Be sure to celebrate each time you say No. Each celebration will build your confidence. Before you know it, you’ll be saying No easily and gracefully – as well as saying Yes with confidence and certainty because you mean it.
But what about those commitments you already made? How can you gracefully release them?
You can do what I did:
Reach out to have conversations with the people you said Yes to. Tell them you want to re-negotiate your agreements. You don’t need to give a long explanation. “Some changes have come up” is good enough.
Seek a win both for you and the other person, so they know you’re negotiating in good faith.
Have a clear vision of the outcome you desire. Then go for it!
I can’t stress enough that when you aren’t able to say No to others, you end up saying No to yourself. In essence, you aren’t valuing your own time. And when you don’t value your time, you end up without the resources to take care of yourself and to create the life you desire.
How can you create what you desire if you’re always saying Yes to other people instead of what’s most important to you?
You end up feeling resentful, annoyed, and frustrated. You also end up depleted, drained, and on the path to burnout.
To help you, here are three tips about saying no:
Learning to say No can change your life…and prevent burnout.
I know it can be hard to break a long-time pattern of saying Yes even when you’d rather say No.
You may find it challenging to say No at first, especially if you’ve already agreed to a commitment. However, once you make yourself your first priority, you’ll experience how life-giving it is to say Yes to you. Your first priority has to be to yourself.
As a self-care expert, I support women to help them learn to say No: no to overcommitment, chronic stress, and burnout. My own experience coming back from severe burnout has given me deep empathy for women in your situation.
It’s time to say Yes once more – to yourself.
So, right now, grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down your answers to these questions:
What’s your #1 challenge with saying NO?
Give me a YES if starting today you’re going to look at where you need to say NO!
What’s the 1 place or relationship where you’re going to start saying NO?
For ongoing advice and strategies to keep you in balance and out of burnout, be sure to subscribe to my email list. This is one time you won’t want to say No! 🙂