Seven Ways To Say 'No' To
You CAN do it all -- but
that doesn't mean you should!
High-pressure jobs, abusive bosses, overloaded schedules, long commutes,
bad traffic and financial problems are some of the contributing factors
to the high levels of stress we experience every day.
Trying to be the best at everything -- best at our profession, best
parent and best partner -- can be unrealistic. When everything is a
priority, then nothing is.
Saying "Yes" to every demand -- from colleagues, family members and
others -- means you might be saying "No" to your values, your health and
Modern life exposes us to constant demands of time and attention,
making our daily life challenging -- if not unsustainable. It creates a
breeding ground for stress and, consequently, the psychological and
physiological byproducts of stress such as irritability, resentment,
restlessness, insomnia, depression, lack of concentration, sadness, need
to cry and impatience.
Some stress in certain situations is good because it is what motivates
us to leap into action. Too much stress, however, can cause emotional
imbalance and health problems. High levels of stress cause our brains to
release toxins and chemicals that pollute our bodies and can have
negative effects, including muscle tension, ulcers, upper
respiratory infections and heart disease, to name a few.
We can’t completely eliminate stress from our lives. But we can learn to
moderate it and even prevent it by being aware of our thinking
processes, mental state and by understanding our limitations -- and
learning to say "No" to the things that are stressing us out. It’s a way
of simplifying our way of life while minimizing or eradicating the toxic
pollutants caused by stress. The key is to get to the root of the
problem by taking certain steps to identify the clutter in our minds and
defining simple strategies to put into action to clear our minds and
learn to relax. We may not have full control of the circumstances or
situations in our lives but we can make choices that can help take
control of our lives. Here are seven ways to achieve it:
1. Say "No" to your inner Wonder Woman or Superman
We have a tendency
to suffer from what I call “the super hero complex,” which is the belief
that we can take on more and more commitments and still be happy and
healthy. And before we know it, we realize that we're overwhelmed and
making personal sacrifices to satisfy the needs of others. That’s a
recipe for disaster that leaves us feeling not only stressed out but
keeps us from real achievement and success. We end up working extra hard
and find ourselves unable to enjoy the fruits of our labor. The first
step is to truly and deeply embrace the idea that we cannot, should not
and will not do everything others demand of us, and everything we demand
of ourselves. Something has to go, and WE -- not somebody else, not our
circumstances -- are going to decide what to throw away.
2. Say "No" to ignoring your own values
Decide what's important to you, and what you really don't care that much
about. Writing down your values on paper will enable you to make a more
focused effort to act and live according to your own values. There's a
very good reason for gaining clarity about all this: You can't make
choices based on your values if you're not clear about what they really
3. Say "No" to unimportant, non-urgent tasks
Everything you do fits somewhere into one box of four categories
determined by your own values and circumstances: 1) important and
urgent; 2) important but not urgent; 3) not important but urgent; 4) not
important and not urgent.
Important tasks are those that support your
value system -- taking care of my health, volunteering at the shelter. Urgent tasks involve a deadline or need to be done soon -- the
kids have to be dropped off by 8, or my presentation has to be finished
You'll find that stressed-out people try to do everything, and tend to favor the
urgent over the important (and may sacrifice health for career, for
It's time to say "No" to this reflexive approach to choosing
what to do and when. See the important-urgent list above or the
important-urgent chart below. That's the order they should always be
done. Try to do tasks that are both important AND urgent first, followed
by important but not urgent, followed by urgent but not important. And
never -- ever -- do tasks that are neither important to you, nor urgent.
Organizing tasks according to this schema will help you prioritize them
quickly, take care of things that are important to you, and help you
shrink your to-do list.
|1. Important and urgent
||2. Important but not urgent
|3. Not important but urgent
||4. Not important and not urgent
One other stress-reducing, life-enhancing tip: Hang on to your long-term
dreams. They fit squarely into the "important but not urgent" box. I'm talking about
things like learning French, or starting your own business. Keep them on
your list, and, every day or every week, take at least one small step
toward realizing these dreams. Don't let the urgent, short-term tasks
block the important, long-term ones from your life.
4. Say "No" to feeling
The antidote to feeling overwhelmed is knowing precisely what you need
to do and by when. Getting tasks out of your head and into your calendar
or onto your to-do list lowers your stress.
Integrate your priority value system (step 3) into your actual daily
calendar and to-do list. Do this first thing each day, before anyone can
demand things of you -- let yourself be the conductor of each day of
your life. Sit down each day and organize your schedule, make sure you
review the previous day for any tasks you were unable to do. Always
complete -- or at least make progress toward -- your most important
tasks, and make sure you meet your urgent deadlines.
Be proactive and never succumb to procrastination, putting off tasks
that seem tedious or too challenging to even begin will cause more
stress and anxiety -- the sooner you tackle such tasks the more at ease
you’ll feel. Achievement is always accompanied by joyfulness and
Be conservative about budgeting your time. There are only 24 hours in
the day. Make sure you clear time for sleep, travel, eating, socializing
or spending time with loved ones and a little "buffer" time for the
When someone comes to you with a task that isn't as important to you as
the actions that are already filling your calendar, say "No."
Completing items by rejecting interruptions and focusing lowers your
stress. Choosing to not make commitments that you don't have time to do
anyway lowers your stress. Lowering your stress helps you do everything
that is important to you better.
5. Say "No" to your inner demons
Whenever you're feeling worried, stressed out, unhappy or angry, take
out a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left, list
everything that's upsetting you that you can control, or at least affect
in some way, such as unhappiness that you're overweight or your
On the right, list all the upsetting things you have no control over,
such as the actions of the government or the rudeness of a person who
tailgated you on the highway.
Now, transform the list on the left into solid action items, and
integrate them into your calendar or to-do list following the above
Take the list on the right, and draw a giant X over it. Crumple up the
paper and throw it away, and with it, throw away your attachment to
these negative feelings.
This is not about suppressing negative emotions but by letting go of
Likewise, be reticent to harbor fear or worry, especially about
something that hasn’t occurred. If you find yourself feeling troubled by
something, take a systematic
approach to identifying the emotion and
combat it with logic. Stop and reflect, is it fear or worry? Fear is a
byproduct of uncertainty and insecurity and therefore is pointless and
irrational. Worry stems from concern for something or someone. Although
it isn’t productive to worry it is worth examining. If you’re worrying
about a past event, needless to say, worrying is pointless. If, in
contrast, you’re worrying about the present or future, carefully
determine if there is anything you can do to resolve it and take the
necessary action to deal with it. However, if you come to the conclusion
that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, then accept the
reality and understand that worrying is counterproductive and be done
Focus on the present reality and the things you can control. You're
going to take action on the things you can do something about, and
you're going to let go of the negative feelings caused by things you
Remember, detachment is a skill and a habit. Work at it. Get
good at it. Learn to say "No" to persistent negative thoughts and
6. Say "No" to your exterior triggers
Disengage, as much as possible, from people that, despite your
best efforts, bring negative feelings and non-constructive criticism to
Although compassion and forgiveness are positive feelings we should
cultivate, it’s a matter of self-preservation to be practical and
detached about relationships. It’s your right to be selective about the
people you want to associate with. Surround yourself by people who bring
you positive energy -- people with whom you feel closeness and
connection on a personal level.
In any kind of friendship (of romance, parent-child, relative, sibling
or unrelated) experiencing a harmonious relationship results from a
mutual desire to respect, support and value one another.
True friends are those who bring out the best in you and inspire you to
want to be better. Friends enhance your life because they allow you to
exchange affection and joy without judgment or expectations. Genuine
friends are there for you when you’re in most need. They give you
recognition for something you do well. Genuine friendships are worth
nurturing and cultivating for a lifetime -- and they’re, unquestionably,
worth your time.
Conversely, people that are neither supportive of you nor
generous with kind words towards you should be kept at arm's length --
or kicked out of your life.
7. Say "No" to unnecessary health problems
The final step is to understand that taking care of your physical body
is essential to your overall wellbeing. The practice of taking care of your body must be integrated as part of your
lifestyle. We sometimes take better care of our cars than we do our
bodies, ignoring the fact that each day that goes by, neglecting our
bodies by eating junk food and not exercising we are accumulating
irreversible damage to all our organs. Our bodies need to be in optimal
health in order for us to maintain an optimal schedule and reach our
goals. We can enhance our bodies’ capacity to resist stress by eating
healthy food, exercising regularly, doing fun things and practicing
relaxation techniques such as meditation, hiking and yoga.
Living by your own set of values as you work towards your own goals will
replace the effects of stress with a great sense of inner peace and a
great sense of accomplishment each day.
Happiness is what keeps us going. When we’re happy we feel that we have
the power to do anything.
It's time to say "Yes" to getting control of your life. The way to do
this is to understand that you're already saying "No" to something --
probably your own values, health and peace of mind. Re-arrange things
according to YOUR values, not somebody else's.
Life is beautiful and each day is a gift -- it's time to enjoy it.
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Good Things In Store
I recently discovered a wonderful protein powder called
Thor’s Raw Power
made by Nature’s First Law. It is excellent for anyone that wants to add
a little wholesome protein and nutrients to their smoothies. And it has
something that most protein powders do not: great taste! My
seventeen-year-old son likes to have a protein smoothie after lifting
weights and I like searching for excellent sources of protein and
nutrients. This is the best one yet and it’s 100% organic and vegan. My
son loves the taste and texture it adds to his smoothies.
[Note, the following letter is from a relative on my husband’s side whom
I visited while attending an Organic Foods conference recently.]
I just wanted to let you know that since your visit I have done a lot of
research on organic living and health. It seems that your visit came at
just the right time in my life, because it compelled me to pull my head
out of the sand and make more informed choices. When I chose this
neighborhood I chose to change our lifestyle, and the switch to organic
living was the logical next step. I have always known that I could do
better, but chose to do what everyone else was doing, because it was
easier and cheaper.
For now, I have switched to organic dairy, produce, and meat. I am also
reducing the quantity of meat in our meals, and striving to have many
meatless meals. I am working hard to keep the sugar consumption to a
minimum, and experimenting with different grains and beans. So far, it
is going great. I feel so much better already.
I also have read about chemicals in the home, and so I am gradually
changing my soaps and household cleaners to more gentle, more natural
Thanks for being a true inspiration and an educated, passionate advocate
for organic living. I hope that you help to inspire many more like me.
p.s.- I have gone back and read all of your old newsletters. I even made
your hummus recipe, and we loved it!
Thank you for such a wonderful note. Your news is music to my ears! I'm
so happy for you and your family. I can't tell you how proud I am of you
and your family for making these kinds of lifestyle changes and taking
such a proactive approach to your health. It’s never too late to adopt
and reap the benefits of a healthy organic lifestyle. Way to go!
I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years helping them make the
transition to a healthy and organic lifestyle and I know it's not easy
to do for many reasons -- including the financial impact.
Organic food is significantly more expensive than food produced with
pesticides and GMOs.
It is my strong belief, however, that in the long term, it is the most
responsible decision you can make, financially and otherwise. You're not
only investing on your body, which will return profits in the form of
good health and wellbeing, but the cumulative financial benefits will be
considerable because you'll be saving money that you otherwise would pay
in healthcare. Lifestyle related illnesses like obesity and diabetes are
costing our society billions of dollars annually and making health
insurance less and less affordable for many.
Health is the best and wisest investment anyone can make.
* * *
Thanks for the great article about the increased peddling of caffeine to
our young children. In our out-of-control consumer culture, large
corporations now pay the smallest possible lip service to “caring” about
our health and the health of our kids. They'd sell mocha frappuccino rat
poison if they could find a way to make it appealing in a good marketing
campaign, and there's very little our lawmakers would bother to do about
it. It's all about the market share and the profits, and that's it. Of
course, they do try to ensure their products have maximum addictive
properties whilst not killing consumers outright for many decades. No
point in killing a generation of consumers before the next batch is
ready to replace them.
If I sound cynical, it's because I know what really goes on behind the
scenes in the marketing and advertising industries. My father was VP and
Creative Director of a major North American ad agency in the 1970's and
80's, and the ethics in the business certainly haven't improved any
I think the best way we can help our kids to avoid these filthy
marketing traps is by example. If we don't buy into the Starbucks/WalMart/McDonald's
culture, and tell our kids why we don't - that's about the best way to
set them up for critical thinking in later life. My daughter was almost
5 years old before she ever entered a McDonald's restaurant (only
because we desperately need a washroom!) and asked me, "Mummy, what is
this place called?" One of my fondest parenting moments!
Thanks for your great work, I really enjoy your site!
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Words of Wisdom
“A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a
hostile world: Everyone is your mirror.”
- Ken Keyes Jr., 1921-1995
They say you’re as old as you feel. A
new technique of fingerprinting of gene activity may reveal in the
future how "old" our organs really are in spite of the number of years our
birth certificate shows.
Researchers at Stanford University Medical Center in Silicon Valley,
California have discovered a set of genes that show how healthy or
emaciated a person’s organs are despite the person’s biological age.
This would be a significant tool in monitoring organs for transplants as
well as finding out how of in good shape you are at the cellular level.
Just think of the possibilities, a simple test will show you exactly how
good you look from the inside out.
To keep up with vegetarian, organic and health-related research
news on a daily basis, check out my
Vegetarian Organic Life
Food For Thought
Chipotle, commonly used in Mexican cuisine, is a smoked-dried and hot
chili (jalapeño) pepper that is generally added to soups, stews,
marinades, dressings and sauces for flavor and spiciness. The chipotle
chile, which is dried by smoking, has a deep dark red color and wrinkled
There are several varieties: dried chipotle, ground chipotle or chipotle
powder and canned chipotle “en adobo,” a tomato base sauce flavored with
spices and vinegar, which is sold at most grocery stores in the
ethnic-foods section or at any Mexican grocery store. When you open a
can, be sure to transfer the remaining peppers and sauce to a glass
container and keep covered airtight and refrigerate for later use.
Canned chipotles will last a several weeks to months. Dried chipotles
will last for several months but must be stored in a cool and dry place.
New Health Risk Found
Parents beware: Your child’s
vinyl lunch box might be poisoning his food.
Based on test findings by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC),
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has sent a letter
manufacturers of soft vinyl lunch boxes in the U.S. that toxic lead
compounds have been found in testing.
Lead poisoning, even in small amounts, causes adverse health effects in
Children are especially susceptible to the ill effects of it,
which can include irreversible damage to their brains affecting their
mental and physical development. It can also affect the kidneys, the
nervous system and the reproductive system.
Lead use in items that make contact with food has been banned in the
U.S. in an effort to protect consumers of the ill effects of lead
poisoning. The obvious question is: Why have U.S. manufacturers been
making lunch boxes (designed, obviously, to put food in them, which
people eat) with lead compounds?
It is alarming to find out that manufacturers knowingly make use of
toxic compounds in items that unsuspecting consumers buy.
Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the
Click on the picture for a closer look!
Whole Grain Pasta with Beans, Tempeh and Chipotle (vegan)
Serves 4 to 6
Beans, tempeh and corn is what make this whole grain pasta rich in
wholesome goodness in the form of high protein, zinc, iron, calcium,
fiber and much more. The chipotle adds a delicious and smoky chili
flavor to the tomato sauce.
Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes
Water for boiling pasta in large pot (enough to cover pasta)
1 tablespoon safflower or canola oil
8 fresh garlic cloves
1 medium onion peeled and cut in 4 pieces
1 tablespoon chipotle pepper (canned in adobo sauce or 1 tablespoon of ground
12 fresh plum tomatoes peeled and seeded (or one 28-oz whole peeled
15 fresh basil leaves (or 2 tablespoons dried basil )
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon rosemary
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 ounces tempeh, finely crumbled or diced
1 cup cooked kidney beans (substitute with canned beans)
1 cup cooked pinto or black beans (substitute with canned beans)
1 cup fresh corn kernels (substitute with frozen)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 ounces whole grain pasta (spelt or whole wheat) Bionaturae makes a
great whole wheat pasta
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Reduced fat Veggy Parmesan cheese alternative (optional)
1. In a large pot, boil water for pasta. Heat safflower or canola oil in
a separate large pot over low heat. Meanwhile, finely chop garlic and
onions or pulse in the food processor or blender until finely chopped.
Take ½ cup of garlic and onion mixture and add it to heated oil sautéing
for 5 minutes over low-medium heat.
2. Add chipotle, carrots, tomatoes, basil, chili, paprika, thyme,
oregano, rosemary and red pepper to the remaining onion and garlic
mixture in the food processor and process until well pureed and set
3. Add tempeh to sautéing onions and garlic and sauté stirring for 5
more minutes. Stir in beans and corn continuing to sauté. Meanwhile,
cook pasta in boiling water as indicated on package instructions,
stirring occasionally. Set timer. When pasta is done, drain then toss
well with a teaspoon of olive oil to prevent from sticking.
3. Add the tomato puree content from the food processor to tempeh
mixture, stirring and simmering for 5 minutes. As it boils, continue to
reduce heat and lightly cover with lid allowing steam to evaporate.
Simmer for another 5 minutes, add pasta and mix well, add 1 tablespoon
of olive oil, salt and pepper, turn off heat and serve. Sprinkle
servings with alternative parmesan cheese and fresh basil garnish.
Cook’s tip: To peel and seed tomatoes immerse them in boiling water for
about a minute then transfer tomatoes onto a colander placing under cool
running water for 30 seconds. Peel skin away, cut in half and remove
seeds and core. Sauce may be cooked 2 or 3 days ahead.
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