July Self-Care Retreat: Saying “No” … With Unexpected, Wonderful Results

July Self-Care Retreat

Some Details About the July Self-Care Retreat

I’m very happy to be participating in the third July edition of the Self-Care Retreat again. Cheryl of Gluten Free Goodness (and Harris Whole Health) is our event’s originator and overall host, but we also have other terrific bloggers taking turns hosting each week. Here’s the main schedule:

~ June 28th:  Cheryl of Gluten-Free Goodness (See Cheryl’s kickoff post and get links to all her posts here.)

~ July 6th:  Valerie of City|Life|Eats (See her post on self-care goals here.)

~ July 13th:  Moi … Shirley of Gluten Free Easily (GFE)

~ July 20st:  Iris of My Fairy Angel (chances are that you also know Iris from her original site, The Daily Dietribe)

~ July 27th:  Kate of Eat, Recycle Repeat

~ Aug 3rd :  Carrie of Ginger Lemon Girl

Other blogger and reader friends are also asked to join in with their posts on self care. For example, here’s a guest post from reader Linda over at Gluten Free Goodness. (I really liked Linda’s post and learned a very helpful self-care tip from reading it.) You can read all the details on joining in on our July Self-Care Retreat—and, again, you can see all the posts to date in the kickoff post, which Cheryl is updating with all the links. FYI:  I LOVED this post from Cheryl on learning from the masters! (Photo below comes from  that post!)

photo courtesy of Cheryl Harris at Gluten-Free Goodness

photo courtesy of Cheryl Harris at Gluten-Free Goodness

In addition to the priceless benefits of self care, this retreat also offers a $50 giveaway to Nuts.com (courtesy of Cheryl!) with entries given to all participants who write a post on their goals, self-care lessons, etc. Finally, we even have a terrific Facebook group, which offers daily support as we attempt to get better at self care. It’s a private group (currently 40+), but all are welcome!

And Now My Thoughts on Saying “No”

The Self-Care Retreat takes place in both July and December. It’s important to note that I passed on the December edition because saying “No” to joining in then equated to my own self-care at the time. So it seems appropriate that this time I’ve decided to join in and discuss the power of saying “No.”

Are you nodding your head, because you already know how powerful saying “no” is? I suspect many of you are nodding your head. Here’s the thing. We all know the power of saying “no” in certain instances, we all want to say “no” to all sorts of things from time to time, but, truthfully, most of us don’t say “no” very often. And to be clear many of us—me included—need to say “no” more. I’m one who usually doesn’t say “no” until I’m well into overload mode. That’s not really the time to do it.

Now before I go on, some of you might be thinking, wait a minute, I thought I’m supposed to say “yes” to everything and carpe diem. Admittedly, that is a philosophy that I try to follow. Live life to the fullest and all that, but a lot of “clutter” can quickly become part of the equation with saying “yes” and I don’t think that’s the true intent of that approach.

Wisdom on a Cocktail Napkin

Wisdom on a Cocktail Napkin

Today I’m going to talk about some times I’ve said “No” during the last few months. The results have surprised even me. I plan to say “no” more often, not only for my own self care, but also to the surprising “betterment” of others when I pull back by saying “no.”

~ First, I received a request from a good blogger friend to join in an upcoming blogging event that was a really great one with a fun theme and lots of exceptional bloggers participating However, the theme/event was not really a good fit for me personally. I was a novice in the topic area. I valued it, but it did not excite me. Now I could have said “yes” and gone outside my comfort zone to participate (because I’ve done that a fair number of times in the past), but saying “no” felt right. Bonus:  The host graciously accepted my passing on participating and I was able to recommend that another blogger friend take my place. That blogger was not only an expert on the theme, but she was totally passionate about it as well. Her participation in the event made it so much better than mine would have, and I didn’t have to add another challenging task to my activity list.

~ More recently, a frazzled family member was having a hard time making some very serious life decisions and wanted me to accompany them on an out-of-town trip. This person had already gotten very frustrated with me when I had offered options on their situation. (I like to play devil’s advocate and I like to present others’ viewpoints; neither of those approaches is always appreciated by this individual.) I felt like I’d already “received” enough of their stress and anxiety from our previous discussions. I knew that we’d end up talking about the same subject and rehashing the same scenarios if I said “yes” to heading away with that individual. So I said “no.” That surprised this individual. The individual asked again. I stood my ground and said “no,” explaining that I knew we’d end up talking about the matter and my input was no longer needed. I told the individual that s/he needed some time alone to work out their solution. Bonus: This person was forced to think about his/her situation independently and come up with his/her own solution. S/he was relieved when their decision was made, and was proud of coming to that decsion on their own. I got a break from the ongoing discussion/decision process and didn’t end up feeling like I had placed undue influence on the individual. That’s a win-win situation!

~ Another “no” has been brewing in me for quite some time. I love hosting my support group meetings, but after almost a decade of hosting them at my home pretty much every month, I decided to say “No” in one regard. I needed a break from hosting 10 or 11 times a year. (Another family hosts our annual picnic and our anniversary open house event is held in a public forum.) Hosting at my home each month had come to feel like a chore because of the cleaning and cooking involved and I didn’t want that to continue. I wanted to enjoy meetings with my members. So I told my group that I would no longer host every meeting, and even when I hosted those meetings would not necessarily occur at my home. I said that we could alternate members hosting at their homes and start conducting some meetings in a public forum as well.


I’ll be honest here. I didn’t expect folks to readily volunteer to host. I sort of expected our group to fizzle out from members’ unwillingness to pick up the “reigns,” but they did accept the challenge! First, one family hosted at their home and we had a really great and relaxed meeting there with them. Then others saw that it didn’t have to be hard to host a meeting, so more volunteered. Next month, we’ll be having our fourth meeting outside my home and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Now I am looking forward to hosting again at the end of the summer! Bonus: With members sharing the hosting duties, we’re having richer meeting experiences due to new locations, folks getting to know each other better as individuals by seeing their living spaces, and hosts are sharing terrific dishes that are different from ones they’d bring to a meeting outside their home (think more main dishes versus desserts). The new hosts have been really pleased at the way the meetings turned out when they hosted and have been happy to help!

Clearly, a main component of all of these situations was saying “no.” Sometimes we simply have to do that. “No, I can’t do that this time.” “No, I don’t need to go into overdrive mode.” “No, I can’t solve that problem for you.” So many of us want to please others and experience major guilt when we don’t. We have to learn to let that go. As demonstrated here, saying “no” to others will not only benefit us, but will end up benefitting those others as well.

Follow TUT to Keep On Track with Self Care

Final thought … I follow a website by Mike Dooley called TUT, at tut.com. TUT stands for Totally Unique Thoughts. (My dear friend Diane of The Whole Gang told me about TUT.) It’s also subtitled Notes from the Universe. “TUT believes that everyone’s special, that every life is meaningful, and that we’re all here to learn that dreams do come true. We also believe that “thoughts become things,” and that imagination is the gift that can bring love, health, abundance, and happiness into our lives.”

Don’t we all want love, health, abundance, and happiness? A daily message can really help us focus on self care, which will allow us to achieve the other goals. (Sign up for your free daily message from TUT here.  Be sure to read the very last line of your daily email, which comes after the brief, embedded marketing pitch .) One of the recent messages from TUT that resonated with me was the following:

“Sometimes the helper needs help, Shirley, and for being helped they become better helpers.

Become better,
The Universe”

Most of us are all about helping. That’s how we get in the predicaments where we need to start saying “no” more to begin with. We always want to help out, to be kind and generous. However, in saying “no” and letting others take the helm, so to speak, we can become better helpers. So if you have a hard time focusing on yourself as justification for saying “no”, please consider that factor, which again I think is exactly what happened each time I have said “no” recently. I became a better helper and others actually benefitted from me saying no!

Not just gf, but gfe!

Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: This post may contain one or more affiliate links. If you purchase through them, your cost will always be the same, but I will receive a small commission. Thanks for the support! Read the full disclaimer here.


28 Responses to “July Self-Care Retreat: Saying “No” … With Unexpected, Wonderful Results”

  1. Lauren Lucille Vasser on July 14th, 2013 9:32 am

    Wonderful and rich post.Thx for the encouragement to live our best lives and to not be afraid of saying no. I needed to read this today.

    • Shirley on July 16th, 2013 1:30 pm

      Hey Lauren Lucille–It’s great to see you here again! Btw, I loved that recent photo of your sweet little guy that you shared on FB! :-)

      Many thanks for the complimentary comment! I’m so glad that this post is timely for you. It’s so crazy that we add so much guilt to our lives and try to be Wonder Women as the cost to ourselves. I was so surprised and so thrilled to see that when I said “no,” it worked out so well for everyone. I didn’t get into it in this post (it was already so long), but part of what keeps us saying “yes” beyond the point we should also has to do with control. If we say yes, we are more in control, you know? But it comes at a cost and why not let others shine, too? ;-)

      Hugs to you,

  2. Melissa on July 14th, 2013 9:52 am

    I’m reading a book called “Give and Take.” It’s about how most people operate as either “takers, matchers, or givers” and how that plays out in life and in business. It’s an interesting book, and surprising in many ways. If you’re going to be a “giver,” in which most of us in this health/blogging business tend to be, you have to know when to say no and how not to be taken advantage of. This is a great post, Shirley, and a good reminder. It’s important to know that people respect your time and value your efforts. If not, it’s time to move on, but with an ongoing generous spirit, which you have. That’s all good, but self care is also an important piece to the puzzle. You have to feel comfortable and confident in your level of giving. And maintain your own mental health at the same time! Saying no is often a good start.

    • Shirley on July 16th, 2013 1:34 pm

      Fascinating, Melissa! I had not heard of that book, but it makes perfect sense and I must snag a copy to read myself. I think the givers who set the proper boundaries are not all that many in number, but I’d like to be one of them! I don’t necessarily think that others are always taking advantage of givers, but it’s easy NOT to volunteer when someone else is taking the helm, you know? ;-) You are very kind with your words as always and I appreciate the pat on the back and the wisdom. I’m needing more self care lately, so I think this is a really important transition for me, and for many.


  3. Cheryl Harris on July 14th, 2013 10:06 am

    How wonderful that your support group stepped up! I couldn’t agree more that “no” is great self-care. It takes great courage to let go of the reins sometimes and step back, but can certainly have unexpectedly wonderful results. I’m so glad you shared this–I think it’ll inspire many (including me!)

    • Shirley on July 16th, 2013 1:39 pm

      Hi Cheryl–Yes, it has been absolutely wonderful! Now we’re booked for meetings at members’ homes through September. I’ll be ready to host again come October. ;-) I kind of feel like I’m having a Duh moment in a way. With raising children, we all know that if you do everything for the child, the child never learns. The parent who does everything for the child deprives them of the opportunity to learn, grow, lead, etc. The same concept can be applied to folks of all ages as shown in my scenarios. Step back and give others the opportunity to shine. :-) And relax and savor all the self-caretime freed up while you’re doing so!


  4. Tabitha on July 14th, 2013 11:31 am

    Thanks for sharing. That was really cool to see how some “no’s” actually worked out better for everyone because you had the strength to decline.

    • Shirley on July 16th, 2013 1:40 pm

      Thanks, Tabitha! Glad you appreciated my real life stories on how saying “no” can work out, and well. :-) I thought I might not be the only one who had not quite figured this out yet. ;-)


  5. Cindy W. on July 14th, 2013 3:04 pm

    Great post, Shirley. Saying no is one of the hardest things to do but it is key to keep my stress level at a minimum.

    Here’s my entry into the giveaway:

    I can’t believe I am admitting this but one of the ways I take care of myself is by allowing myself a nap when I get home from work (with my little puppy by my side). My job is high energy and go, go, go all day so I am tired when I get home. I used to push myself and keep going but then I realized who does it hurt for me to take a snooze. I feel rejuvenated when I wake up – unless I sleep too long. (:

    • Shirley on July 16th, 2013 1:44 pm

      Thanks, Cindy. I think saying “no” has to get easier over time. Perhaps the key is how we frame saying “no.” I know that when I declined to participate in the blogging event, I didn’t feel any remorse at all because I offered up another solution, one that ultimately worked out splendidly. We don’t always have to do that, of course, but if we can offer up another option at times, it might eventually show us that saying “no” does not have to be a bad thing or anything we have to feel guilty about.

      Oh, I love that you take naps in the afternoon! Very smart. Much of the world believes in the afternoon rest period … why not? I agree on sleeping too long though. If I nap a wee bit long, I’m a grumpy, groggy camper, so to speak. Thanks for sharing your self-care routine, dear! :-)


  6. Vicky on July 14th, 2013 7:00 pm

    This is such excellent advice Shirley. I’ve never been able to say “no” and when I’ve tried it’s never worked out well. I think I’m possibly ready to do this now, I guess if you can turn it into a positive (like you did) without upsetting the person/s then everyone does win.

    Congratulations for having the courage to say no and for writing about it too!

    Vicky xo

    • Shirley on July 16th, 2013 1:51 pm

      Vicky–I’m glad you found my post helpful and that you are ready to say “no” more often. The thing is we always know in our guts when we should say “no.” I wonder if things not turning out properly is a combination of us still wanting control and the old self-fulfilling prophecy thing, you know? Usually when we’ve said “no,” it’s still a situation that we are very close to and may even still be very much involved in, but perhaps we said “no” but still helped out/took a lesser role. Our involvement could have made things turns out “less” than they could be (sort of like those helicopter parents and their kids) or we were so close to the situation, we saw every flaw along the way vs seeing the final outcome. So many things I worry about and notice as not going as well as I would like, nobody else even notices. :-(

      Good luck! xo,

  7. Pat @ Elegantly, Gluten-Free on July 14th, 2013 9:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing these instances from your own experience, Shirley. It’s so hard sometimes to break a pattern that has been effective in the past, even if the present situation needs it…even harder when those who benefit from it keep asking. It’s encouraging to realize how you have dealt with saying no.

    • Shirley on July 16th, 2013 2:02 pm

      Hi Pat–Good to see you! :-) You are welcome and thank you so much for your kind words, dear. I’m glad that folks are finding my experiences helpful. In hindsight, I should have shared one more story on saying “no” recently, even if the “no” was only in my head. I’ll share now. Son came home for 4th of July. We still own “his” car, the car he drives, so it’s still registered and inspected here, etc. He got his car inspected that Friday and it failed. :-( It needed several parts, etc. He came camping with us that night, riding up with friends. My immediate thought was that I was going to have to give him my car to take back to NYC and I would have to get his car fixed and then later we’d have to meet halfway to trade vehicles, etc., but I kept those thoughts to myself. Well, he left our property with his friends Saturday evening, talked to another friend who works on vehicles, etc. and arranged for him to fix his car on Sunday. His friend told him where to go get the parts, which he did (going to several places and even going to a junkyard out in the country) and then the friend fixed his car, Son got it re-inspected (the place where he got it inspected was open on Sunday!), and left for NYC by late afternoon. He was back home in NYC a little after 10 pm. We were in awe, but very happy! :-)


  8. Kathryn on July 14th, 2013 10:32 pm

    No can be so hard. Lately it has seemed nearly impossible. You’ve given some good examples for me to ponder but what popped out at me was…sometimes the helper needs help.

    Asking for help is even harder than saying no! I’m going to be rereading your post a few more times this week.

    Thanks, Shirley.

    • Shirley on July 16th, 2013 2:24 pm

      Hi Kathryn–I think that when it seems nearly impossible to say “no,” we probably need to do so more than ever. That means we’re loaded up. ;-) Yes, “sometimes the helper needs help.” Such a simple phrase, but it speaks volumes, doesn’t it? I have learned to ask for help more. When I’m hosting an event, etc., I’ve learned to tell folks specific things they can bring that work not only for the event, but keep me safe. People always ask “what can I bring?” and they sincerely want to help/bring something. So the last several years for my Valentine’s Day party, for example, I’ve developed a pat list of answers and I don’t plan on making/buying those things myself. For example, fruit platter, veggie platter, gf crackers (like Crunchmaster or Blue Diamond), and the like. With close family, I’ve even had individuals pick up the deli platter (hubby must have that!) or my centerpiece from the florist. Lately, a friend has been making my floral arrangements as her contribution. And while Mr. GFE never vacuums, I will call upon him for touch-up vacuuming (a must if one has a collie!) right before big events. Maybe if you start thinking along those lines of delegating, you’ll make some progress and eventually transition to saying “no” and letting others do their thing. Like I said, most folks really want to help us and they don’t think less of us if we don’t do it ALL. Hope that re-reading helps. I know just thinking about the success I’ve seen thus far helps me. :-)


      • Kathryn on July 17th, 2013 11:50 pm

        Yes, I think you are spot on and I’ve been “loaded up” for a while. The July Self Care Event could not have been timed better. Great examples of delegating. I will work on being ready to delegate when asked. :-) Hooe you’ve had a great birthday!

  9. Kate {Eat, Recycle, Repeat} on July 16th, 2013 12:47 am

    We’re often terrified of disappointing others by saying no, but many times it is the best thing for everyone! Great examples and attitude Shirley. And thanks for the tip on TUT! My brother sent me a TUT card, but I hadn’t done anything with it yet. I love having positive things come into my inbox.

    • Shirley on July 16th, 2013 2:27 pm

      Kate–That is so, so true! Why is it so hard for us to recognize? Control and perfectionism are underlying causes I think. Thank you, dear! Cool that you got a TUT card from your brother. I so love TUT wisdom. Be sure to read the very last line of each message when you get them in your In Box. It can be easily missed unless you get in the habit because there’s marketing type info in the middle of the email, but the last line usually “seals” the jist of the message. :-)


  10. Elle on July 16th, 2013 2:18 am

    This seems like such an interesting retreat. I think it’s important to say no sometimes.

    I believe that we have heard “no” so many times growing up, and we have always associated with the negatives.

    However, it’s necessary to say “no” sometimes. There are things we may not agree with or believe in.

    It’s important to say “no” sometimes when people ask us to do things, because we may not have the resources to say “yes” to everyone.

    I’m glad you have addressed this. Thank you for sharing!

    • Shirley on July 16th, 2013 2:32 pm

      Elle–That’s what I was just saying to others who commented; perhaps we need to “re-frame” the “no.” I remember that Oprah used to say “let me pray on that.” The presumption was that it was a “no” unless she got back to you. Whether one is an Oprah fan (or one who prays) or not, the wisdom is that we don’t have to give an immediate answer and sometimes the non-answer can be the answer. I am sure that sometimes she did end up saying “yes,” but at least she got to think about it and wasn’t put on the spot. Honestly, if a proposal/request for help doesn’t immediately make me want to say “yes,” then the answer should probably be “no.”

      Thanks for adding your input!

  11. Debi on July 17th, 2013 9:30 pm

    Awesome post, Shirley! No is such a freeing word, yet many of us are afraid to say it. So glad to hear the support group members stepped up and started hosting. I know that was a worry for you. :D

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