Learn How To Say No

One thing I see frequently is people who are burnt out. Not just physically; but emotionally and spiritually as well. How does this happen?

Demands on us thesedays are huge. We are working longer hours in general (usually for less money as well). As a practitioner I see this more and more with the Whai Ora (people seeking wellness) that I treat. Now people are typically working 50, 60 or even 70 hours plus a week just to make ends meet. As a consequence I’m seeing more and more work-related injuries (ie; aged care and nursing, truck drivers, labouring jobs, builders) as workloads increase - people push themselves harder for longer. But more alarming than that is the chronic depression, exhaustion and ‘burnout’ that I’m seeing also.

Hohepa Delamare (renowed Tohunga) said the problem thesedays is that we have gotten ‘soft’. He was talking about not only our ability to deal with physical discomfort or pain, but also our resiliance and ability to cope emotionally and mentally. Our Tupuna were a ‘tough’ breed. Physically they had agility, strength and stamina! Don’t believe the theory that the average mortality rate of the Maori pre colonisation was only 28-30 years. Captain Cook’s first accounts of Maori (in the Bay of Islands) included people in their 70s; active, fit and exceptionally healthy.

In those times however, surviving and thriving also depended on the individual being able to relate, react and adapt quickly to a wide range of situations. Situations that we don’t have to deal with in this day and age! Consider how we now ‘gather food’ by driving to Pak n Save. We barely break a sweat let alone have to strategise a whole operation that might take days, weeks or months of organising, delegating, planning, negotiating and preparation beforehand….

Anyway back to the subject at hand. Many years ago, I was the YES girl. I wanted so badly to be accepted, I said yes to almost every request made of me. In my late 20s - 30s I was a young mum. Most of my time was spent at the local Marae, in the kitchen etc, involved with community projects and hui, on trusts and committees, at kohanga. In thosedays I could burn the midnight oil and go all day and all night. I figured I could catch up on rest afterwards (it never worked out that way). What I didn’t realise at the time was that all that pushing myself and being the ‘Energiser Bunny’ would take a toll on me. I was always giving of my energy and there was very little receiving - in other words taking time out to ‘fill my cup’ replenish and restore myself never happened. I became depleted, exhausted and desperately unhappy.

So what did I have to do differently? Well most importantly I had to learn how to say NO. I had to disappoint some people, some of the time. Including my own family. That was hard for me because I hated letting people down. Of course most of the time it was just in my own head - people weren’t always feeling let down! If they were, I had set things up that way. I had to accept that I had created an expectation that I would always say yes! But there were some people who needed to get used to idea that they could no longer take me for granted.

MY problem was that I didn’t value myself enough. Whatever I did, it was never ENOUGH. I had just as high expectations of others too! Whatever THEY did, it was never enough either. (Another reason I justified doing everything myself) I was a perfectionist - driven by lack - always in deficit.

The downside to not knowing how to saying NO is that you create dependancy. Just like being a good parent, you have to say no to your children sometimes. And they need to learn how to deal with it! In saying no, we encourage resiliance, self sufficiency and independance. People quickly learn how to figure out stuff for themselves and/or stand on their own two feet!

One example is a woman I met who had allowed her son and his young children to move in with her (when her son’s marriage fell apart). The intention was that he would stay with her until he got himself back together and found his own place to live. However, he was angry and resentful and he began taking it out on her. He was verbally abusive. He lost his job and started using drugs and alcohol. After two years this woman was at the end of her rope. She realised she couldn’t let him live with her anymore. For the first time since he came to her, she had to say NO. No to the abuse, No to the behaviour, No to his attitude of entitlement and lack of accountability. At this point she knew all she had been doing was ENABLING him.

Sometime we have to say NO to others in order to say YES to ourselves.

It’s an ongoing journey whanau.

Mauri tu, mauri ora

Jolie Davis