Saying No

New Year has been over a month ago now, and I understand many people’s New Year’s Resolutions are to “try new things”. However, mine was to “do less things” or better put, to “get control of my FOMO”. 

FOMO or the “fear of missing out” is a case of someone agreeing or signing up to do lots of different things in life. They can be as big or as small as you like. It could be going to a party or signing up for a job; staying up late to chat with friends or being on committee of a society. This can result in stress, tiredness and disappointment. 

I know there are people out there much busier than me, but I personally found last Autumn pretty overwhelming. I just said yes too many times, meaning I got exhausted, anxious and felt like I was letting people down. It became my goal in 2018 to know my limit and manage my FOMO. So far, I feel like it has been working, and I fancied sharing it for those who need a reminder that saying no is sometimes a good idea. 

Step One: Be organised

Being organised does not just mean meeting deadlines or avoiding clashes. It’s about organising time so you don't feel rushed or overwhelmed. If you know you have three things due the same day, spread them out across the previous week if you can. If you know you have an essay due Tuesday with a wild weekend scheduled just before, get it done the week before that. 

I hate to go all tumblr on you all, but I have honestly found bullet journaling so helpful. I lay out my weeks so I can see what I have scheduled by the hour. It helps to get an overview of which weekends are hectic and which ones are more relaxed. 

Organising your time also helps avoid dropping out last minute on anything. This is totally OK behaviour if it’s required sometimes, but it is much nicer for everyone involved if it’s avoided. 

One way to use your super scheduling skills is to book yourself a “rest day” or a “rest evening”. Pick a day or an evening and decide that if anything comes up then you are just going to say no. That evening is your booked out for your resting time. 

Step Two: Prioritise

When it comes to big commitment stuff such as being on a committee of a society or getting a job, sounds obvious but definitely think about it before committing to anything. Sure, if the application deadline is in 2 days then apply, but make sure you have a good think about whether you have the time before they offer you the job. You have to be really honest with yourself in these situations about what you can actually achieve. And consider if you actually care or need this stuff that much outside of your degree. 

Even something low maintenance like your friends going to a pub quiz. If you feel like you would rather stay in and get some homework done, or watch some Netflix, just do that. You do not have to say yes to everything just because you are free. 

My point is, do the things which are a priority to you. If you value something more than another thing, then channel your energy into that. It is exhausting trying to do everything. Yes, it may sometimes mean turning down pretty good opportunities, but this is something you may thank yourself for later. 

Step 3: Be Kind to Yourself

If saying no is difficult out of fear of being impolite: It is important to be aware that people are not entitled to your time. If you do not want to do something, then you have every right to not do it. And you would be surprised how many people would just carry on with their lives as usual once you start saying no. 

It may be harder if you see someone else saying yes to everything and more, but people have their limit of how much they can cope with. Just because others juggle lots doesn’t mean you should. You may have the time to do so, does not mean you have the willpower to. There is no shame in needing a break sometimes. As my lovely flatmate reminded me: “People need rest days for the gym, people need rest days for life too”. 

If saying no is hard because you do actually want to go and you just think it may overwhelm you if you took it on: Rather than feeling sad at turning down things, look at what you have done. Suddenly turning down that one thing looks tiny in the array of brilliant things you did say yes to. Remember all the times you did not miss out. 

These three things are more of an adopted mindset than behaviour. Just this change in attitude has made life so much easier for me. I have felt less bad for having nights in rather than being out and about. I have also found studying easier since I have given my mind the space and time to do it. Overall, I have just been much more calm and focused. 

If you have FOMO, take it as a blessing rather than a curse. If weidn’t feel the need to try out everything, we would not have discovered all the things we are passionate about or met the people we have met. I would definitely prefer to be someone who always says yes than always says no. Just remember to keep your FOMO on a leash so you do not compromise your mental health.