Every three-year-old understands the power of the word "no" and yet it's a word many adults are afraid to use.
As parents we respond to “no” with frustration. Especially when it’s “no” to a bath, or bedtime, or brussel sprouts. We teach our children that “no” is bad and “yes” is good. “No” is disobedient. “No” is not nice.
But when it comes to managing life with diabetes, no can be a powerful tool. “No” is a choice we can make, just like “yes,” or “maybe later,” or “just a little bit.” By saying “no” to things that raise our blood glucose levels, stress us out, or undermine our self-care, we are saying “yes” to our health.
When we are afraid to say “no” we often end up hurting ourselves. We end up doing something because someone else wants it, without considering the ultimate effect on us. Or because we don’t want to make waves. Or we don’t want to be not nice or disrespectful.
“No” can be particularly useful as we go into the holiday season, where outside demands on our attention, time, wallet, and energy are at a peak.
The holidays are a time when our normal routines get disrupted. We gather with family and friends to celebrate. And those celebrations, while bringing us joy, can also be demanding and bring on stress.
Sometimes it’s hardest to say “no” to family and friends. These are people we care about and who care about us. We don’t want to hurt their feelings or be disrespectful.
Remember this: It doesn’t have to be a loud, petulant “NO!” It can be a polite “No, thank you.” It can be a calm “maybe later.” It can be a quiet “not right now.”
You can say “No, thank you,” to Aunt Gladys and her sickly-sweet yam and marshmallow casserole that you know will send your blood glucose levels through the roof. You can say “No, thank you,” to Uncle Harry’s volatile political discussion that you know will stress you out and send your blood glucose levels through the roof.
Yes, I know, they can be insistent.
Sometimes the most effective “no” isn’t said directly. It can be putting a small spoonful on your plate and then just moving it around with your fork as you eat the things you really want. It can be changing the subject of the conversation to the latest popular movie or sports match. Or, if worse comes to worst, it can mean sitting at the kids table.
Sometimes the most useful “no” is the one you say to yourself. In your own head. You can always honor your own boundaries even when others don’t. And if you ever find yourself succumbing to holiday pressures remember to say “no” to the most insidious impulse of all: self-reproach.
Just say “no” for your health.