Saying “No” Is 1 of the Best Things I’ve Done For My Mental Health, and I Don’t Feel Bad About It

I’m not big on astrology, but everything I’ve ever read about Taurus personality traits are spot on. I’m stubborn, candid, determined, and independent. I’m also the type of person who believes I can do it all. It’s taken a lot of fails and being on the verge of a mental breakdown for me to realise saying “no” is important for all aspects of my health and my success.

I have an innate desire to be great, to learn, and have always been willing to do whatever it takes in order for my goals and dreams to come to fruition. I was the kid who juggled playing piano, dance recitals, musical theatre performances, running club track, and playing club soccer all at once. I’m still that person who dabbles in everything — trying new things like comedy sketch writing, improv, and ballet — all this while following the adult rules I never signed up for, like paying bills.

For a long time, I said “yes” to everything without hesitation even though I should have been giving out hard nos. When I first starting personal training, I’d never say “no” to a session even if that meant working on the weekends or training during hours that didn’t fit with my schedule. If a friend needed to have a vent session at 11 p.m., I’d be waiting for them to call although I had to wake up at 4:45 a.m. the following morning. If an opportunity was presented that could potentially change the trajectory of my career, I’d force it to fit into my schedule even if that meant running on little to no sleep or moving my schedule around once again.

I thought I had tapped into a rare superpower — being able to muscle through so many things at once. I was doing all of these great things and saying “yes” to every opportunity that came my way, but I felt like I was dying on the inside. In the words of my grandma, I had never taken the time to slow down and enjoy life. I was living but 100-percent going through the motions.

To get everything under control, I had to start by saying “no” to myself. To this day, I make daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals that change all the time. If something pops up, no matter how mundane or intricate, I first ask myself if it’s something I should focus my energy on. If it doesn’t inspire, challenge, or help me grow in some way, I don’t do it. If it is worth my energy, I ask myself if I have the mental capacity to prioritise it, or if it’s something that can be addressed in the future. This has helped me tremendously when it comes to scheduling my week, completing tasks, and not feeling constantly overwhelmed.

The second part of embracing “no” came by way of setting boundaries. For example, training on weekends is no longer an option unless you’re Rihanna; I reserve weekends for working on passion projects. The weekend is also when I mentally recharge by catching up on shows, movies, and eating good food.

I also set boundaries with friends and family, which can often be difficult. Sometimes this is saying, “No, you can’t emotionally dump on me for two hours because I’ve already reached my weekly quota.” Or saying, “No, I don’t want to go to that event with you.” I care tremendously about my friends and family and making unforgettable memories with them, but my mental health comes first, and I know my limits.

Saying “no” was something I used to be afraid of doing. I felt like it would halt the trajectory of my career (I still feel this way at times) or make me come off as selfish and self-centreed. But saying “no” has become one of the best ways for me to focus my energy, avoid mental breakdowns, and take time for myself. I no longer worry about offending people because those who really care about me and my well-being get it. Choosing to say “no” still makes me feel uncomfortable at times, but it’s one of the best things I’ve learned how to do.

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