How to Say No to Overwhelm

Are you so overwhelmed you don’t have the time or energy to do anything about why you’re overwhelmed to begin with?

It’s a maddening conundrum, isn’t it?

Your To Do list is mostly undone, work has reached its tentacles way beyond an 8-hour day, and life keeps presenting you with unexpected hurdles.

Most days feel like chaos. Some morph into crisis.

Beyond burnout

You feel behind and burdened. And tired. Oh so tired…

Tired from the physical exhaustion of a day that starts early, ends late, and is filled with multi-tasking mania.

But there’s also another kind of tired. The kind that comes from feeling like you’re just getting through the day—and barely at that.

Getting through the day as in existing. Not fully living and certainly not thriving.

Life happens

Of course, life happens.

Your kids are home sick with the flu when work is at it busiest. You suddenly find yourself taking care of an elderly parent. An employee quits unexpectedly right before a big client project is due.

Whether short-term or prolonged, this kind of overwhelm can’t really be planned for or altogether avoided.

More, more, more

But that’s not the kind I’m talking about.

Because what I see more of is the self-created, self-inflicted kind of overwhelm.

The kind that comes from adding more and more and more to your plate as if time, energy, and attention are unlimited resources.

The kind that comes from prioritizing everything and everyone ahead of your own serenity, sanity, and self-care.

Saying no to overwhelm

So what can you do? What thread can you pull to unravel the ball of commitments and yeses and care-taking and people pleasing and perfectionism and overdoing that’s gotten you to where you are right now?

Overwhelm is about too much. Plain and simple.

Which means the antidote to overwhelm is to start saying no—a lot.

  • No, I can’t bake a cake and cookies for the bake sale.
  • No, I can’t join the committee to save the whales.
  • No, I can’t book an appointment beyond my regular working hours.
  • No, I can’t help with that, pitch in, lend a hand, join in, participate…

No is also for you

But no is not just for other people. If you want to be free of overwhelm, then no is also what you must start saying to yourself.

  • No, I don’t have to keep up with the Joneses.
  • No, I don’t have to do everything myself without help.
  • No, I don’t have to say yes to every possible project that comes my way.
  • No, I don’t have to offer that high-touch, energy-draining service.
  • No, I don’t have to sacrifice my sleep and well-being for work.
  • No, I don’t have to be busy, busy, busy to feel worthy.

Turning yeses into nos

It’s time to identify all the yeses that have lead to overwhelm—and where you need to start saying no—to others and yourself.

  1. Think about when you’ve said yes. Spend a few minutes brainstorming all the people, opportunities, commitments, projects, tasks, assignments, obligations, chores, jobs, errands, work, programs, missions, activities you’ve said yes to over the last few months. (Note: You may not have said “yes” aloud, but if something is on your To Do list, calendar, or radar, then you said yes.)
  1. Go through your list and mark whether each is a yes to someone else or yourself. Mark O=Others Mark M=Myself.
  1. Say no to overwhelm by selecting 3 yeses to others and 3 yeses to yourself that you’re going to take off your To Do list, calendar, and radar. That will be 6 yeses turned into nos! Rinse and repeat. (Note: Saying no may feel awkward at times and not always be easy, but it’s critical if you want to rid your life of overwhelm.)


Are overwhelm and exhaustion the results you’re getting in your life? What nos do you need to start saying—to others and to yourself—to stop creating those unwanted results?


About the Author:

Jennifer Bailey is a champion for intentional living and collector of reinvention stories. Her mission at Jennifer | 365 is all about freeing women from the friction and energy drain of an overwhelmed life so they can gain a sense of control and focus on what matters most. She believes less really is more. The answer isn’t buying more storage containers to organize your things. It’s not getting better at time management so you can get more done. Instead, Jennifer is an advocate for getting rid of stuff and taking things off your plate. Read more about creating the life you crave at:

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