Saying No Is Self-Care

As caregivers, we’re wired to give of ourselves. We often fall into the belief that we must be selfless and self-sacrificing at all times. It’s a nice idea, but the reality is that without boundaries, we can give so much that there’s nothing left of ourselves.


This is why saying “no” is a form of self-care.

Limits and boundaries exist to maintain our emotional and mental health and well-being. They prevent us from depleting all our resources and ensure that we have downtime. Saying “no” isn’t selfishness. Rather it’s recognizing that our own needs are of equal importance as those of the people we care for.

It’s also important to understand that saying “no” isn’t a one-time event. Rather, it’s a practice that we all need to incorporate into our daily lives.

But how do we do that?
  • First we must recognize that there are times as caregivers when we do have to let the person in care come first. When there’s an urgent need, or when something must happen on a schedule, those are things we have to accommodate.
  • Second, we need to make sure that when we say no, we’re not doing it to be rude, but choosing to honor the things that serve us. For example, if someone is insisting you stay a little longer on a visit, you might respond with, “I’m flattered that you want to spend more time with me, but I have tasks I need to complete,” or “I’m so sorry, staying would be fun, but I’ve got other obligations.” Note: You do not have to explain what those tasks or obligations might be.
  • Third, we need to be aware that not everyone will react positively when we say no. Children may throw temper-tantrums while adults may attempt to force the issue. Anyone my react by giving you the silent treatment. When these things happen, it’s important to remind ourselves that boundaries and limits help us keep our relationships healthy.

    As well, sometimes those we care for will take time to learn to respect our boundaries if they’re new. It’s okay to give them time to process.

  • Finally, we should never feel guilty about saying “no” to someone. Being a caregiver does not mean signing over our entire lives, even if it sometimes feels that way. Saying “no” when we need to focus on our own needs for a while is just as much self-care as taking time to exercise, meditate, write in a journal, or eat a healthy meal.

We’ve all heard the adage, “you can’t pour from an empty vessel.”  Setting boundaries and limits – saying “no” – gives us the time we need to rest and reset so that we can say “yes” in the future.

2 thoughts on “Saying No Is Self-Care”

  1. Here, here. Progress not perfection. Process not product. When I say “No” I m saying “Yes” to myself and some of my needs. Beautiful article Melissa. A great reminder that
    martyrdom gets no medals.
    With gratitude.

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