We all heard it time and time again growing up. Nancy Reagan’s campaign to make kids just say no to drugs reverberated throughout our childhood (and for some- young adulthood), loud and clear. Yet, when it comes to saying no to anything else, we are made to feel that we are somehow failing others. Ironically, by always saying “yes,” -we end up failing ourselves.

Most of the clients I work with, are all over-achievers. They run corporations, small businesses, families, relationships- and somehow manage to fit in dry-cleaning, volunteering, and barbecues in between.

On the outside most people would look at their lives and say “they’ve got it all…how could they possibly be unhappy?” Yet they are, and they are not alone. Millions of people each year seek therapy due to feeling over-run and under-appreciated.

Even I am guilty of doing this, myself. A client calls last minute with a crisis, and I re-arrange my schedule to fit them in. A friend wants to meet for lunch, but needs me to come to her end of town, and I bend. A boss volunteers me to help their friend and I oblige. Pretty soon, it becomes Wednesday and I don’t know how I’m going to push through the rest of the week.

This all came to a head a while ago when a very wise friend of mine noticed how stressed I became and said “you know sometimes its ok to just say no.” I sat there speechless…well for about as long as I can remain without speech, which is roughly two to three seconds.

After all this time of claiming my title of the “Happiness Doc,” I wasn’t doing such a good job of upholding my end of the bargain. I wasn’t taking care of myself, and if it didn’t stop – my clients would start to the feel the difference. I knew something had to change.

I started with my schedule, and started delegating days as private practice days, and other days for hospital practice. I told friends no who couldn’t come to my end of town, and set boundaries with my boss. I stopped answering phone calls and emails after 7, and you know what? The world did not end. Not even a breaking news report that I had been less available this week!

My meditations started to become more frequent and of greater quality. I was able to sleep more easily and deeply throughout the night. I became a better person to be around in my personal life and found it much easier to be present.

How might you start just saying no today? Is there a meeting you don’t really need to attend? Is there someone you can delegate a task to, to make your life a bit easier this week? Do you have a toxic relationship that continually pushes you to tax yourself? What can you do today to start clearing out the clutter of your life?

Dr. Colleen Long is the author of “Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E,” and practices in the Los Angeles area under the supervision of Dr. Richard Oelberger (PSY22186) . Dr. Long works mainly from a positive psychology framework as it applies to addiction, depression, relationships,  body image and weight loss. Her website can be found at www.DrColleenLong.com. All public speaking/media event requests handled through FreudTV (info@FreudTV.com).

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