It is suggested that a majority of us with fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue syndrome are/were type A personalities. Type A meaning competitive, driven, urgent, controlling, uptight, overachiever, multi-tasker, ambitious, etc… I know we all don’t have every one of these traits, but in general this definitely describes me. When I was diagnosed with CFS/ FMS there came a time when I had to evaluate my life and make some tough choices. Energy became extremely limited and I had to decide where I was going to spend that limited energy because I had to preserve my energies for things that really matter to me. A skill that I had not learned prior to CFS/FMS was the art of saying “no”. Anyone with fibro must learn how to do this or end up bedridden from trying to please everyone else. We cannot do it all and for the sake of our health, we must protect ourselves from overdoing it. Overdoing=Flare=Pain and Exhaustion.
There are things that MUST be done in a day and then there are those things that people ask me to do that aren’t bad in and of themselves, but agreeing to do them might just push me into a flare. Like volunteering at school/church, favors for friends, hosting a party, ministry, coaching, charity events, mentoring, heading up committees or organizations, etc… Saying no graciously without feeling guilt is a learned skill. The more you do it, the easier it will be. I have made a list (because I love lists!) of reasons why we should say “no” and another list of reasons to say “yes”!
Why we should say “no” when people ask us to do things?
1. To protect the limited good health we do have.
After I was diagnosed and I accepted the “new normal” in my life, I had to make some changes to protect my health. This is an evolving process for me, but after 15 years I’m getting pretty good at it. Overdoing it, stressing out, feeling pressure to accomplish something only leads to flares and is usually not worth it in the end. I don’t want to deplete my energies on a task that someone else can do. My good days are invaluable to me and if I can prevent some bad days by saying no, then I have no problem doing that.
2. To save the energy/health for people you love.
I am a wife and mommy first – that will never change. I am constantly evaluating throughout my day if the choices I make will leave me with energy for my family. I never want my kids to get the leftover part of me because I decided to head up a committee at church or host a baby shower that knocks me off my feet for several days. These are hard choices. Especially if you enjoy doing these sorts of activities, but I recognize the energy zappers that they are and I’ve decided to save my precious, limited health for taking care of myself and the ones I love.
3. Because someone else will do it – maybe not as well, but it WILL get done without you.
I can be a bit of a control freak sometimes. I like to be in charge or at least I used to be. I know that I can do the job well and it will get done the “right way”, so therefore I feel a need to be in charge. Over the years I have learned that even though you feel like you could do a better job, it’s not worth the stress it will cause. Often, we are put in situations where we feel like we are the only ones who can do it or at least do it correctly, but truth is, most of the time if you don’t volunteer to do it, someone else will.
4. People will still like you.
Sometimes we fear that people won’t like us or understand us if we keep saying no. Get over it! 🙂 Simply say no. I usually don’t go into a long diatribe about how I have fibromyalgia and CFS and that my energy is very limited. People don’t have to know why or even understand why. Just politely say no and you know what? People usually just accept that. If they need a reason, I just say I have some health related issues that keep me from participating and maybe offer to help in a way that is less stressful for me. Being rude or pathetic will not score you any points. Be polite, offer to help where you can, if you can, and leave it at that.
5. Say “no“ with no guilt.
Don’t feel guilty. Make priorities and stick to them. If someone asks you to volunteer for something that is not on your priority list. Say no. Don’t feel guilty or beat yourself up. You have to create boundaries for yourself for the sake of your health. This is a new way of thinking and a new way of life.
6. Keep relationships healthy, but say no to protect yourself from emotional drama and stress.
Ah, here is a sticky one. Fortunately, I don’t have a lot of family stress issues. But I know especially around the holidays, family social gatherings can cause a lot of stress which could equal big flare ups. My advice is to keep relationships healthy with good communication, but don’t allow family members to talk you into doing things that would hurt your health. I understand that a big portion of family drama may be due to their lack of understanding. It is a painful, seemingly personal attack when this happens. My only advice is to try to take the high road and be kind. Not easy. But protect your health with physical and emotional boundaries by politely saying no when you need to, even if they don’t understand.
You can’t always say no or even want to say no, so sometimes you should say “yes”!
1. Say yes to the things you really desire to do, but keep them limited.
There are many things in life that bring personal fulfillment and happiness. If what you are asked to do will feed your positive emotions and bring you much joy then say “yes”! Sometimes it is worth risking a “crash” to grab an opportunity that you are passionate about. Delegate to others to ease your load and keep your positive commitments limited. Too much of anything, even a good thing, can wreak havoc on our bodies.
2. Thank about it and pray about it.
If you are unsure of whether to commit to something or not, take the time to think, evaluate and pray about it. If you feel the Lord calling you to do something (like for me – writing this blog), but are unsure of where the time and energy will come from, ask for His leading. He’ll guide you in the right direction.
3. Volunteer for things you can do at home that aren’t stressful.
As a parent of five kids, I am often asked to fulfill obligations concerning my children’s school and church activities. I can’t always attend every party, go on every field trip or organize every fundraising event, but I can bake! 🙂 I love to bake and they are always asking for party food. If there is a baked good on the list of needed items, I will sign up. I like to do it and I can do it from home on my time. I often will bake cookies ahead of time and freeze them and then pull it out on party day and send it to school. They taste fresh with no stress! Think of creative ways that you can help without overloading yourself.
4. Know your limits.
You know YOU the best. If a volunteer activity fits well within your physical limitations, then go for it. Say “yes” because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.
5. You are forced to say yes, even when you don’t want to.
Life happens and it is inevitable that you will do things that you don’t want to do. You will find yourself in a situation where there is no alternative and you are the only one who can do a particular task. Do your best, ask for help, complete the task, build in recovery time and try to learn from the experience. Sometimes that’s just the way life rolls.
6. Be generous and Christ-like.
As a Christian, it is hard to say no to ministry opportunities. It is part of our calling to help and serve others. Serving God is a priority for me, but I can’t always do everything asked of me. Feelings of guilt can often plague us into saying yes to things at church, but God knows and understands our limitations. He wants us to prioritize and make wise choices. Helping, giving, and ministering to others is always a good thing when it falls within the boundaries of good health. And when it doesn’t, politely say “no“ with no guilt!
What about you? Do you have trouble saying no? or have you already mastered the skill? how have you set your boundaries? Let’s get a discussion going!