it's hard to say no but you canWhen you’re providing special care for a loved one at home, you know very well that you’ll be pulled in many directions. The struggles of a caregiver are many, and one of the most stressful things to deal with is feeling like you can’t take care of everyone’s needs. A special skill that home caregivers need to learn is how to say no. Peter Bregman, author of the book 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, talked recently on Harvard Business Review about nine practices we can all incorporate into our lives so that we can say no and not feel like a jerk.  We’ll discuss these in two separate segments; the first dealing with personal preparations you can make, and the second dealing with practical ideas as you start using “no” in your life.

Know Your No

As a provider of special care, you need to take some time and come to realize what is and isn’t important to you. You must realize that you want to say no before you can say it and mean it. All the other steps follow this one.


Start small. Work on low-stress situations to say no. “Would you like dessert?” “Hey lady – want to buy a watch?” Take time privately and practice saying “no” out loud. It may seem silly, but it will help calm your nerves when you have to say it when it matters.

Be Prepared to Miss Out

In an ideal world, you could be an amazing caregiver and take care of everyone else too. You could pursue every goal and dream, attend every function, bake every batch of cookies for that bake sale. Sometimes we hate saying no because we just don’t want to miss out on something. It helps to think of the situation as not a missed opportunity, but a tradeoff. When you’re saying no to one request, you’re also saying yes to your loved one, something even more valuable. Both are opportunities; you’re just choosing one over the other.

Gather Your Courage

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably used to saying yes. Learning to say no is going to take bravery on your part. You may feel lousy on the inside for saying no, and may imagine that others will have a low opinion of you. Though it’s unlikely that others will blame you for saying no, part of you has to accept the fact that it’s a possibility. It’s the price you pay for reclaiming your time and focusing your energies on your present goal of providing special care for your loved one. It will take courage.

Today we’ve talked about things you can do to prepare yourself for saying no.  In our next installment of this discussion, we’re going to talk about practical things you can apply as you start saying “no” more often.  Remember that this process is an uncomfortable one, but the payoff is substantial – more peace of mind, and more time to focus on providing special care for your special one.