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Assignment #5: Learn to Say No

As a nurse, you’re a caregiver by nature and are prone to saying yes, even when doing so can overextend you dangerously. Saying no will not only give you the time you need to care for yourself [For other ways to nurture yourself, see “Quiet, Please!” on page TK], but will also help you control your life. Joyce, the workers’ comp claims nurse, began by saying no to working extra hours. That helped her find her voice. Not long after, she also began saying to no to the people living with her.

When you’re not used to saying no, it can take some practice. Here’s how to master the fine art of (polite) refusal:

Step 1: For one week, keep track of everything you say yes to—whether it’s taking an extra shift, driving your mother somewhere, picking up your kids’ favorite snacks (even though there are plenty of other snacks in the house) or hosting a school fundraiser. The final count could be a real eye-opener.

Step 2: Practice saying no. This might sound silly, but many of my clients find it hard to say that one word. Ask a friend or family member to play the role of someone making a request. “Can you take on another patient?” “No.” Make the word actually come out of your mouth. If you’re not comfortable responding with a flat-out “no,” you can offer a couple of words of explanation, but not an apology.

Step 3: Say no five times this week. If something comes up and you can’t get the actual word “no” out, say, “Let me get back to you on that,” then go into the bathroom and practice saying no again until you’re ready to give your answer. Seeing that the world doesn’t fall apart when you say no will help you realize that you’re doing the right thing and will make it easier to say no the next time.

Assignment #6: Commit to Making Changes

Keep in mind that change happens one step at a time, not overnight. By making a commitment to altering a few things at a time, you’ll place yourself on the path to happiness.

Those changes could be anything done differently, whether exercising, spending more time with your husband or standing up to the nurse supervisor on your floor. And remember, to do something more, you usually have to do something else less. More exercise? You may have to watch less TV or commit to spending less money on eating out so you can spend more on a gym membership. To stand up to your supervisor, you may have to say yes less often. And so on. What’s most important is that you have a clear idea of what your goals are.

Think about what all this means to you, and then sign a contract with yourself. Just fill in the blanks, be as specific as you can and you’ll be on your way to a less stressful, more blissful life.

I am committed to doing more ___________________ in my life.

I am committed to doing less ___________________ in my life.

I am committed to doing _______________________ differently in my life.

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