13 Ways to Say No (Without Hurting Anyone’s Feelings)

I used to hate saying no. Personally and professionally, it made me so unbelievably uncomfortable. I was constantly over-committing myself, agreeing to work on projects that I didn’t have time for, and forcing myself to go to social events that I really didn’t want to go to. My anxiety about saying no outweighed my self-preservation and self-care, and it was exhausting. I got so wrapped up in what I “should” be doing, whether it was work, volunteer work, socializing, or anything else, that I completely failed to advocate for or take care of myself.

When things got really bad for me last year, learning to say no was no longer optional. Every day felt like an uphill battle, and I had to carefully guard what little energy I had. I couldn’t work on extra projects or socialize every night of the week, even if I wanted to (which I didn’t). Even though it made my skin crawl every time I did it, I kept finding new and different ways to say no.

I really wasn’t prepared for what happened next: people were super understanding. With the exception of a few people who aren’t in my life anymore (and those two things are definitely related), all of my friends, family, and coworkers responded really well. No one yelled at me or made me feel guilty, and little by little, I started to get more comfortable saying no. Let me tell you, the first time I turned down an invite to a party I really didn’t want to go to and instead ordered takeout and watched a movie at home, it was like Holy crap. Saying no is awesome.

Now? I love saying no! I’ve gotten to know myself so much better and I’ve upped my self-care game enough that I know pretty much right away whether something will be good for me, or whether I should give it a big “thanks, but no thanks” and move on with my life. That being said, this didn’t happen overnight. I struggled with saying no for a lot of reasons, but one of them was that I didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the people I love and respect and I didn’t want to isolate myself or keep myself from getting invited to things in the future.

So I (somewhat unintentionally) came up with this list of ways to say no that stay true to myself and my needs without hurting anyone’s feelings:

13 Ways to Say No

  1. “I can’t commit to being in charge of this project, but I would really like to be a part of it. Is there a smaller way I could contribute?”
  2. “I don’t have the energy to go out to dinner. Do you want to come over and order takeout with me instead?”
  3. “I’m sorry, I’m just not up for hanging out right now.”
  4. “I really can’t take on another project right now, but I bet [insert competent colleague’s name here] would be able to help.”
  5. “I’m not feeling well, can we get together another time?” (Note: don’t lie about being sick, but if you’re feeling depressed, anxious, or just plain worn out, those are equally valid ways to not feel well.)
  6. “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to make it to your party. How can I make it up to you?”
  7. “I’m going to pass this time, but thanks for thinking of me!”
  8. “I need some time by myself. Can we do something next week instead?”
  9. “I’m going to stay in tonight, but have fun!”
  10. “That sounds like a great [project/idea/trip/outing], but I just don’t have time for it right now.”
  11. “That just doesn’t sound like it’s going to be fun for me. I’m going to pass.” (This one’s best to use with family and very close friends who know you well enough to know this isn’t a slight, just the truth.)
  12. “I don’t think it’s going to work out this time. Maybe next time!”
  13. “No, thanks!” Simple, but effective.

Saying no isn’t complicated, but it isn’t easy either. Be as honest as you feel comfortable being, and don’t make up excuses. It’s always okay to make the decision that is best for you and your mental health, even if other people don’t like it. Don’t let the guilt and “shoulds” overshadow that. If the people in your life care for and respect you, they’ll understand. And if they don’t, maybe you need to find better people.

As usual, let me know how you’re doing via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or email at findingthewaytowell@gmail.com. Keep fighting the good fight and take care of yourselves!!

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Tomorrow Really is a New Day (And how to make yourself believe that)

As you may or may not have noticed, FTWTW went on a brief (and largely unintentional) hiatus. My last real post was over a month ago. I got really sick, then I went on vacation, then it had been a couple weeks and I started stressing myself out about the need to get a post written and it just sort of got away from me.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, first of all, if you’re someone who follows my blog, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to disappear on you. Second of all, it brings me to my next post, which is…

Tomorrow is a New Day

I know you’ve had that day. You know, the one where you had eighteen things on your To Do List and only managed to accomplished two and a half. The day where you started out vowing to eat healthy and go to the gym and instead you polished off an entire package of Oreos and binge watched Say Yes to the Dress. Or maybe you swore you were finally going to get started on that big project that’s been overwhelming you for months (cleaning out your closet, for instance), and instead you played Candy Crush for four consecutive hours.

Yeah.

I feel like I’ve had a lot of those days lately. Like, a lot.

I don’t know about you, but when I have a day like that, I beat myself up so much that the guilt and shame I feel about it is worse than not getting the thing accomplished in the first place. In reality, the fact that I didn’t start cleaning out my closet today just isn’t that big a deal. No one died, nothing bad happened, I’ll just have to start it another day. But my brain has different ideas. My brain uses that failure to follow through as evidence that there’s something wrong with me. I’m lazy, I’m unorganized, I don’t manage my time well, I’m a slob — there is no shortage of nasty things my brain can turn that into.

Does anyone else’s brain do that to them?

This isn’t exactly a foolproof method, but here’s what I started doing to fight off those thoughts. I sat down after a day where I laid on the couch for six hours and watched TV instead of doing anything productive, and I struggled to come up with four different mantras to repeat to myself on days like that.

  1. Nothing truly bad happened as a result of my choices today.
  2. My body and mind needed to take it easy today and by doing that, I honored myself and my needs.
  3. My choices today do not define me as a human being.
  4. Tomorrow really is a new day. Nothing bad will happen if I follow through tomorrow instead of today.

It might sound a little cheesy, but by repeating these things to myself over and over, I can usually pull myself out of that nasty shame spiral.

Now it’s your turn!

You can use mine if you want, or you can come up with your own. Either way, write them down. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Now that you have your mantras written down, you can either post them somewhere visible or stash them somewhere safe. Just make sure that they’re easily accessible when you start to get sucked into that shame spiral. Read them (out loud) over and over again when you start to get down on yourself. It might sound silly, but hearing yourself say those things — even if you don’t believe them right away — can really help.

At the end of the day, you have to remember that you are so much more than the sum of your bad choices for the day. It’s okay to rest and veg out when you need it. It’s okay to eat like crap and not workout every now and then. You’re going to be just fine, it’s just a question of convincing your brain of that.

As always, let me know how you’re doing via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or via email at findingthewaytowell@gmail.com. Keep fighting the good fight, and take care of yourselves!

I’m Way Too Sick to Write a Post This Week

Hey everyone!

I woke up on Monday with a 101.7 fever (yuck!) and haven’t been feeling much better, so I didn’t quite have it in me to write a solid post this week. Instead, I’m going to leave you with Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability.

You should probably drop everything and watch it right now.

I’m reading her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, right now, and it’s pretty life changing. For more on her work, check out her website at http://brenebrown.com/.

Take care of yourselves, and have a great week!

 

What to Do When You Backslide

So you have your self-care plan, and you’re taking the right medication, and you’re feeling great. You’re well-rested, happy, and healthy and it’s fantastic! In fact, so fantastic that you figure missing a day or two of your self-care or your medications or your healthy eating or whatever your self-care plan includes will probably not be a big deal. And you feel totally fine for the first couple days. Yay!, You think, I can finally relax a little on the self-care!

And then the third or fourth day comes around, and you’re dragging a little, but you still feel mostly fine. And then a week or two goes by and BAM! You’re lying on your couch, crying at a video of a raccoon and binge eating peanut butter straight out of the jar.*

I have a tendency (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this) to continue indulging in whatever bad habit I’m indulging in instead of changing anything because I already feel like crap, so it doesn’t really matter at that point. Obviously, this isn’t a great solution. It doesn’t matter how many times I go through this, I always feel completely helpless and hopeless. I manage to convince myself that I have no idea how to get back to that awesome, totally in control feeling.

The last time I had this feeling (which happened to be a couple days ago), I talked to a friend who is much, much wiser than I am, and she gave me some really wonderful advice. She said that a bad day doesn’t mean the healing process doesn’t work or that you’ll never be better. It just means you need to go back to the basics and start your healing process from the beginning again.

See? I told you she was wise.

So I made a plan for what to do when I inevitably backslide, and now I’m going to share it with you.

What to Do When You Backslide

Ask for help. I don’t care how you do it, but this is the very first thing you need to do. Call your parents, call your best friend, tell your partner, post on Facebook, shout it from the rooftops. It doesn’t matter, just tell someone (anyone) that you’re struggling and you need a little extra support. On Wednesday, I posted on Facebook, “Dear Facebook, I’m having a really rough day. Can you say nice things to me, please?” You know I hate posts like that, but in this case, it was the absolute best way for me to get the help I needed. The comments came pouring in with love and support and kind words and it really, really helped. It can be hard to be honest about your struggles, but more often than not, it’s the best way to get the help you need.

Break the cycle. Put away the peanut butter,  dump the wine, throw out the cigarettes, stop online shopping for things you don’t need and get your ass off the couch. Whatever your particular brand of self-sabotage, you have to break the cycle if you ever want to feel better. Stop doing whatever harmful thing you’re doing and get out of the house for a little while. Go have coffee with a friend, explore the stores in your neighborhood, or just take a short, mindful walk. Pay attention to your surroundings: the sights, sounds, smells and textures of the world around you. You might be surprised by how much it helps.

Go back to your self-care basics. Bust out your self-care list (and if you haven’t made one yet, go to that post and make one now. It’s so worth it.) and check in with how you’re doing. My guess is that you probably aren’t sticking to it very well, if at all. Do your needs, and if possible, do them immediately after you get back from your mindful walk. If it’s safe and healthy for you with the energy you have, throw in as many of your wants and bonuses as you can.

Write affirmations and post them everywhere. Sit down with a post-it pad or a bunch of note cards and write down all of the nice things your best friend would say to you if he or she was there. “You’re beautiful.” “You’re brilliant.” “You’re so talented.” “You have a seriously fantastic ass.” “You can rock this day!” Then post them all over the place. On your bathroom mirror, your dresser, your bedside table, your kitchen cabinets, your fridge, your car. Make your favorite one the background on your phone. Your friends can’t always be there to tell you how fabulous you are, but you can do it yourself.

Treat yo self. Do something nice for yourself that doesn’t involve eating or spending money. My therapist sent me this awesome list a couple days ago (have I mentioned how much I love my therapist?) and I love it. Not only will whatever you do make you feel happier, just taking the time and effort required to do something nice for yourself will remind you how important and worthy of love you are.

Be kind and patient with yourself. Health and happiness isn’t an end goal, it’s a continuous process. You’re allowed to backslide, fall into bad habits and have bad days. It doesn’t make you bad or less than; it makes you human. Remind yourself of that when you backslide, and remember that you are still a wonderful person and everything is going to be okay.

Your turn! What do you do when you have a bad day? As always, you can comment here, or reach me via email at findingthewaytowell@gmail.com, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Take care of yourselves!

*This is a totally fictitious scenario that is 100% made up and not at all based on my own life experiences**

**Just kidding.

Block Your Annoying Friends (And Other Tips to Improve Your Screen Time)

We all have that friend right? The one whose posts drive you crazy, make you feel guilty, or just plain bum you out, but you keep them around because you feel like a jerk blocking them. I talked about this a little over here, but today I’m going to talk about why you don’t need to feel guilty and why you absolutely, 100% definitely can and should block those folks.

Block Your Annoying Friends

There are a million different kinds of people you should probably block, but these are the big three:

  • The constant complainer. They always find something to complain about, whether it’s their health, the weather, their partner, their children, or anything else. No matter what happens, they seem to have a special skill for finding the negative and throwing it all over social media. It’s annoying and depressing, and there’s no way anyone is benefiting from that. 
  • The drama queen/king. The people who post stuff like “OMG, had the worst day today. I can’t even. 😦 😦 😦 ” and wait for the attention to come rolling in. That kind of negative attention seeking doesn’t serve any purpose except to bring everyone else down. If it’s someone you really care about, you can still be supportive, but take it off of social media. Block them, but text or call periodically to check in. Because really, your newsfeed doesn’t need to be filled with “I HATE my new hair! What do you guys think?” with 50 selfies. 
  • The aggressive believer. Whether it’s Christianity, atheism, veganism, or healthy eating, they know that their way is right and will use every post to convince you to join their cause. If their posts stress you out, block them. Even if someone is fighting for a great cause that you believe in, if their posts make you depressed or anxious or otherwise upset, it’s okay to block them, at least for a little while.

No matter how close you once were, how much you like someone in person, or how related to you they are, unless someone’s social media posts actively add to your life and make you happy, there is no reason to have them in your newsfeed. If you’re uncomfortable unfriending them completely, just block their posts or unfollow them. That way, you don’t have to see their posts and they’ll never know. You just get to reap the benefits of a more positive social media experience. If you want some mental health positivity in your life, you can follow FTWTWBlog on Instagram and Twitter or like Finding the Way to Well’s Facebook page.

Want more tips for cleaning up your screen time?

Set limits on your social media and connection time. I don’t check my phone before I leave the house in the morning, except for the time and the weather. Once you’ve showered and eaten and gotten dressed, you’re better prepared to face the day, which includes the potential stress of social media/texts/e-mails/calls/etc. At night, cut yourself off at least an hour before bed. This will give you some time to wind down without being inundated with potentially upsetting or stressful stuff, and the blue light is terrible for you at bedtime anyway.

Go off the grid during new, exciting experiences. I know it’s tempting to Instagram every moment of your vacation or every course of an expensive meal, but resist the urge. If you’re so focused on documenting and sharing everything, you won’t be able to be fully present and enjoy the experience. Take pictures, and if you want to, you can always post them later.

Know your boundaries with emotionally intense TV and movies. Pay attention to the way your body and brain react to upsetting, graphic, or scary TV and movies. I love scary movies, but I noticed that my anxiety levels would skyrocket for a few days every time I watched something scary. Now that I know that, I can make the choice to expose myself to scary stuff and ratchet up my anxiety if I want to, but mostly I avoid it. It took me a long time to accept this, but it’s okay to stop watching something if it upsets you. Turn it off. Leave the room. Leave the movie theater. Your mental health is your first priority, and it’s always okay to make the healthiest choice for you.

Avoid, avoid, avoid. Don’t click on the link to the blog post about animal abuse. Scroll right on past the heartfelt video about the deaf baby hearing its mother’s voice for the first time. Ignore the blog post about rape culture. I’m not suggesting that you live in a bubble and completely cut yourself off from anything that could ever upset you, but why are you willingly clicking on things that you know will make you cry? Are you going to solve the world’s problems by reading one more article? Probably not. It all goes back to that whole should/shouldn’t issue. You feel like you should read those articles and get worked up about those issues, but all it’s doing is upsetting you. I may have mentioned this a time or two, but your mental health is your first priority. If reading upsetting articles or seeing violent movies is making you feel worse, stop doing it. At least for a little while.

It can be a hard process to control your media intake, but ultimately it is so worth it. As always, let me know how it’s going via email at findingthewaytowell@gmail.com, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Take care of yourselves, and keep fighting the good fight.

One Thing You Need to Know About Bipolar Disorder

DISCLAIMER: Please do not EVER adjust your medication without first talking to a mental health care professional. I’m not a professional, and this isn’t intended to be medical advice. Please, please, PLEASE talk to your psychiatrist before making any changes.

I went to see a new psychiatrist last week. I’ve struggled to find one that’s a good fit, and I think I’ve finally found the right person. If you’re someone who’s shared that struggle, you know what a big deal that is. My appointment was an hour and a half long, and I’ve never met with someone who was so thorough. As is always the case in a first session with a new psychiatrist, I struggled and dug in the deep recesses of my brain, trying to remember nine years’ worth of trial and error with psychiatric medications.

I laid everything out for her as she just nodded, took notes, and occasionally asked follow-up questions. At one point, she asked a question that I had never thought very hard about.

“Have you ever been on an antidepressant that helped for more than a couple months?”
“Um, no?”

That’s just the way antidepressants work, right? After a while, they stop working and you have to up your dosage or switch medications, right? …Right?

She didn’t comment on my answer, she just added it to her notes. Finally, after over an hour of this, she sat back from her desk and looked at me.

“Well, no wonder you feel awful. You should never have been on antidepressants.

Uh. What?

Bipolar Pills

It turns out that there is a sizable chunk of evidence that antidepressants shouldn’t be used to treat bipolar disorder. There’s all kinds of info out there that suggests that antidepressants can increase manic episodes, which is pretty scary. The real kicker for me though, it that antidepressants can actually lead to or worsen rapid cycling, which in a nutshell means that while it may shorten the depressive episodes, you’re more likely to relapse sooner and more frequently.

This isn’t even new information. All it took was a quick Google search to come up with a whole handful of articles on why antidepressants shouldn’t be used to treat bipolar. While we (obviously) shouldn’t rely on Google to make our medical choices for us, the fact is that the information is out there. So why the hell have I been on antidepressants for the past 9 years to treat my bipolar disorder?

What does this mean for you? Well, it depends on your diagnosis and history. If you’re someone who’s diagnosed bipolar, you’re on an antidepressant that’s been working for you for a long time (like, over a year), and you aren’t experiencing rapid cycling, you’re probably okay. If you’re taking antidepressants and you’ve noticed any of the following (whether you’re officially diagnosed bipolar or not), it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a conversation with your psychiatrist:

  • Rapid cycling (more than four mood episodes in a year)
  • Irritability/agitation
  • Severe insomnia
  • Increased manic episodes
  • Antidepressants only seem to improve your mood for a short time before getting worse again

We all know that I’m not opposed to medication. This post isn’t meant to scare people with bipolar disorder into going off their meds. For the love of God, DON’T DO THAT. Every person is different, and the right care plan for you might look completely different than the right care plan for me, even if we have the exact same diagnosis. If you’re someone who’s been put on antidepressants, it’s entirely possible that your psychiatrist knows about the risks and has decided for one reason or another that antidepressants are the right fit for you.

Don’t call your psychiatrist up and scream at them for being an irresponsible charlatan and screwing up your care (even if you want to). Just pay attention to yourself, your mood, and your medications and share the information with your psychiatrist. It never hurts to ask more questions and get more answers.

Part of me wants to be so angry with every psychiatrist who has put me on antidepressants (and there are a lot of them), but I’m trying really hard to focus on the positive: I’m finally in competent hands and getting the care I need. We’re (slowly) weaning off the antidepressant I’ve been on since I was released from the hospital and adding a mood stabilizer. I’ll let you know how it goes.

As always, I would love it if you would let me know how you’re doing via e-mail at findingthewaytowell@gmail.com, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Take care of yourselves, and keep fighting the good fight.

You’re Not Fatter* than You Were Yesterday

Youre Not (1)

I had a day earlier this week where I walked into the bathroom at work, and the reflection in the mirror absolutely horrified me. I looked gigantic — somehow way fatter* than I had looked the day before. My hair was horrible, my clothes didn’t fit right, my shoes looked stupid, my make-up wasn’t doing anything to fix how tired and awful I looked. It was bad.

For the rest of the day, I just kept thinking, “How the hell did I leave the house looking like this?” I kept my head down, compulsively tugging on my clothes to try to hide myself and trying in vain to fix my hair. Then in the afternoon, a woman I worked with stopped me. She said, “You look so cute today! Have you lost weight?”

Hold on, what?

Was she blind? Did she see the way I looked? I was so busy hating the way I looked and trying to hide that I hadn’t considered the possibility that maybe the problem wasn’t my body or my appearance. Maybe the problem was my perception of my body and my appearance.

It’s amazing the way depression (or anxiety or low self-esteem) can affect the way you see  yourself. For years, I assumed that I looked shittier on days when I was depressed because I was depressed. When I’m depressed, I don’t eat or sleep well, I don’t pay much attention to what clothing I wear, and I put the bare minimum effort into my appearance. It stands to reason, then, that I look way worse on days when I’m depressed, right?

But what if the depression doesn’t actually make me look like crap? What if the depression convinces me I look like crap, when in actuality I look pretty much the same?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how completely floored I was by this realization. I mean, I have spent countless days beating myself up for how awful I looked. There have been more days than I want to think about where those feelings of unattractiveness and worthlessness were so overwhelming, I could barely think about anything else. And it was all in my head? That was a mind blowing realization for me.

Just in case you have days like that, here’s what I have to say to you:

You’re not fatter than you were yesterday. Unless you ate something that made you really sick and bloated or you’re actually pregnant, it’s a physical impossibility that you put on enough weight between yesterday and today to be noticeable. It’s all in your head.

Your clothes didn’t get uglier over night. That sweater you wore last week didn’t suddenly become the ugliest piece of clothing you’ve ever seen in your entire life. The sweater didn’t change, your brain chemistry did.

Your hair might be worse today than it usually is, but no one cares. Look, I’m not going to lie to you, sometimes you have a bad hair day, but I promise no one is analyzing it and judging it the way that you are. Throw it into a ponytail, ignore it, and keep moving.

Your skin, your outfit, your nails — whatever it is that you’re self-conscious about — are virtually unchanged from yesterday. You’re still the same ravishing, intelligent, kind, beautiful, kick-ass human being you were yesterday. Don’t let your brain tell you any differently. All that negativity is only in your head.

If you’re feeling really bad about the way you look, you have two options. The ideal option would be to take a good long look in the mirror and find all the things you do love about yourself, because there is so much about you that’s beautiful and lovable. I know that some days that’s just not going to happen though, and that’s okay. On the really bad days, you can just avoid the stupid mirror altogether. In fact, if you need to, you can avoid anything that will encourage you to pass judgment on yourself. No scales, no clothing shopping, no pictures. Just focus on your self-care, do a little emergency mental health maintenance, and keep fighting the good fight until your brain catches up with reality.

It will catch up, probably sooner than you think, and you’ll be able to see yourself for what you truly are: beautiful, brilliant, and amazing.

Author’s note: this was a really tough one for me to write, because I kept thinking “maybe this is just me. Maybe other people don’t do this.” Ultimately I decided to share, because I realized that every time my brain convinces me that I’m the only one deluded, depressed, or crazy enough to think the things I think, it turns out that it’s yet another lie my brain is feeding me to isolate me in my depression. I hope this is helpful and/or meaningful to you. Please feel free to share your story in the comments, or on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. You can also e-mail me at findingthwaytowell@gmail.com if you’d rather not share so publicly.

*A disclaimer: I am all about the body positivity movement and I really and truly believe that there’s beauty in everybody and every body, no matter the size or shape. That being said, it’s hard for me to remember that sometimes when I’m feeling low. This isn’t meant to be a commentary on health or weight, just a reflection of how skewed my brain gets when I’m depressed.