Want Less Stress and Better Health? Just say “NO”

“Good fences make good neighbors.” ~ Robert Frost

It’s astonishing how many people suffer because they don’t say “no”.  Saying ‘no” is like a fence. It protects us when we need to stay on the inside and it protects what’s not needed from the outside.  Some find it difficult to say “no” to their children whether they are small ones or adults. Some have difficulty saying “no” to a spouse, a friend, a colleague or even to someone they don’t know.

The Problem

There are times when you need to say “no.”  If not, life has a way of dishing out the stress and misery that goes along with not having a fence.  With no fence, you become vulnerable to becoming a victim.

It’s important to learn to say no for your health and wellbeing. Not being able to say “no” contributes to depression, anxiety, and stress.  It increases worry that causes obsessions, increases physical ailments such as high blood pressure, colds, skin problems, and other stress related illnesses.  Over time, continued strain on your body from routine stress may lead to serious health problems.


Beth is divorced with three adult daughters.  All of them have children that Beth is very close to.  Beth feels an incredible amount of guilt as her daughters blame her for any difficulty they had growing up.  She gave them whatever they wanted.  She couldn’t say “no.”  She remembers her brother saying to her that “one day when your kids grow up, you’ll be sorry.”  He implied that she could not set limits.  Why couldn’t she set limits?  Because she carried so much guilt in not being able to be available to them when they were young.  Fighting was a frequent dance between she and her husband.  After the divorce, she felt bad they didn’t have a father.  With limited income, she worked two jobs, so she felt guilty that she wasn’t available.

Now, Beth’s children blame her for their problems and say that it’s her fault.  They demand to have her car, so she catches the bus, she pays their bills and she gets collection calls.  The children call her names and she often finds herself crying until she falls asleep.  Beth needs a fence to keep the junky emotions from getting in.  Without it, she becomes a victim and ineffective in participating in problem solving that would be helpful for her family.

Joe needs a fence to protect him from getting out.  He has been divorced for a little over a year.  He looks for situations to connect with his ex.  During those interactions, he attempts to control how she should handle situations, use her money and relate to others.  She is fearful of him and is working toward getting protection to keep him a way.  If she does this, this would be a forced boundary.  Before it happens, it would be helpful if Joe learns to contain his impulses.  He needs a fence to keep him from getting out.

Don’t forget the feeling when you realized that someone did something for you and then you realized that they didn’t want to do it.


Some reasons you can’t say no:

  • Guilt.  People pleasers often feel guilty
  • Fear of hurting someone’s feelings
  • Fear of being rejected
  • People to take advantage of someone.  This could be with an agenda with malicious attempt
  • Some like conflict, others avoid it
  • Control of the outcome of others
  • You don’t have a plan or purpose for you life
  • You did no learn how to set limits.

Ways to Say No

  • Not now
  • Maybe later
  • That’s a good idea, not able to help now, perhaps next month I could
  • I wish I could help you with that, is there someone else you can think of who could do it sooner than I can?
  • Which would be more helpful to you?  To do A or B
  • Thanks for thinking of me.  Email me with the details so that I can review and determine if I have the time to give to it.
  • Candy is not good for now.  You can have a piece after you do your chore. For now, let’s have some fruit.

How secure is your fence?

One of the most effective ways to claim your power is to have strong, healthy personal boundaries. Practice ways of saying “no” when you need to.  It definitely improves your health.

Want to read more about it?  Check out this book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.

“A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”  ~Gandhi