Learning to Say No When You’re a People Pleaser
If you are a caregiver, it is likely you have a problem saying no. Just the fact that you selflessly decided to take on the epic task of caring for another person’s needs shows that you willingly take on tasks that go above and beyond the call of duty. While this is an honorable trait, setting boundaries is important to your well-being.
I have a really hard time saying no. I avoid confrontation at all costs and saying no makes me feel anxious. As a result, I have taken on more that I could handle at the cost of my health. As my autoimmune condition worsened, I came to realize that I wasn’t doing myself any favors by putting myself last. While you may not have an autoimmune condition, stress can cause a number of health conditions that can be prevented.
When to Say No
As a caregiver, it can be hard to establish boundaries. We hate to say no to a loved one so we just continue pushing. No matter how much you love someone, you can’t add more hours to the day. And, while everyone gets the same 24 hours in their day, we don’t use them all the same way. While it may seem like you should be able to squeeze more into your day if you just cut back on sleep or skip exercise or self-care, that isn’t the best solution. These are important components to your well-being.
So, where and how can you say no? Let’s start with the where. You don’t need to say yes to everything. Evaluate your priorities and what can be delegated.
It may be that your priorities differ from your caree’s priorities. Decide what your priorities are and stick with those first. For example, if your priority is that your caree has healthy meals, assistance at medical appointments, financial support and clean laundry, then figure out how to get those done first. If your parent also wants help with reorganizing the garage, rides to church and to grow a garden, know that these don’t fall under your priorities and if you can’t fit them into your day, nicely decline. You can offer to help them find someone to do these things, or suggest they reach out to your sibling or a family member for help.
Knowing how much time you actually have available can help you say no. I recently read an article on blocking out time on your calendar according to activities. This is a great way to figure out what you have left to give. For example, if you work from 9 – 6 every day, block out your work time, along with travel time.
Once you’ve done that, block out time for dinner (cooking and dining), cleanup and everything else you must do. That will show you a clear picture of how much time you have left to do the extras. Do the same for your weekend time. Block out time to spend with your spouse, chores, errands, etc.
Once you’ve figured out your must dos, you know what extras you can do. Completing caregiving tasks that are your priorities count as extras. Put them on your schedule so that you know how much time you are dedicating. Don’t forget to block time for fun and self-care. While they may not seem like a priority, they are critical to your well-being.
Define Needs Versus Wants:
You probably have figured out that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that is asked of you. This is where you decide what is a need versus what is a want.
Make a list of all of the things you do in a day and which ones are necessities. Your needs include work, time with spouse/family, meals, self-care and the priorities you determined such as meals for caree, assistance with medical appointments and laundry. Are they represented on your schedule? If they aren’t, where can you carve them in?
If you work 40 hours per week, it is likely that you get some sort of lunch break. Can that be where you either squeeze in self-care, like taking a walk, coloring or chatting with a friend? If you prefer to do these things at home, can you squeeze in caregiving tasks like booking appointments for your parent or handling their finances.
This is where it gets tough. It is so hard to ask for help when you are a people pleaser, especially if there aren’t many people raising their hand. That being said, you are not the only person who loves your caree. Enlist their loved ones.
Here are some ways to get help. If your sister regularly cooks for her family, ask her to make enough for your caree, or even your family once a week. If your brother works near your caree, ask him to drop off groceries either during lunch or after work once a week. If your sister lives long-distance, ask her to help with bill paying and research. Do you have nieces and nephews? Maybe they can clean your caree’s garage.
If you don’t have local loved ones, ask them to help contribute financially to outsourcing services. Hire a cleaning service to help keep up your caree’s home and do their laundry. Try out a meal service either for your family or your caree. Request gift cards to local take-out restaurants to cut down on the amount of meals being prepared.
Now that you know what to say no to, here are some reminders on how to do it. If you’re like me, just getting the words out is the hardest part. Whether you have to say no to extra requests from your caree or requests from a volunteer group, neighbor or friend, one of these responses should fit the situation.
- Remember “No” is a complete sentence. (Note, this is extremely difficult for a people pleaser.)
- Thank you for asking, but I can’t commit to that at this time. My plate is full.
- I’m sorry but I can’t fit that in. My schedule is booked.
- My time is already committed. I wish you the best in finding someone to help you.
- It’s so nice of you to think of me. Unfortunately, my plate is full and I’m committing to less activities at this time.
I have been trying to do this in my life. It has been extremely difficult, however, I try to remind myself that I am my priority, followed by my family. Our needs come before the needs of others. If I give everything I have to others, I can’t give to those who matter the most. I hope these suggestions help you in your journey as well.