One of the most powerful programs Oprah ever did was about how she learned to say “no.” One can only imagine how someone like Oprah must be inundated with invitations, offers, proposals, and pleas to help. She linked her weakness for saying “yes” too often to her history of abuse that left her yearning for approval. Attempting to be liked resulted in her saying “yes” when her heart was telling her to say “no.”
As we begin a new year, perhaps we can follow Oprah’s example. Few of us, I’m sure, rise to Oprah’s level in terms of how frequently we are approached. Helping others has never been more important after the worst two years we’ve all been through. Emails, mailings, and phone calls asking for donations pour in each day. On TV, every other commercial promotes an organization that needs funds to continue their work. Groups also need volunteers since so many people have dropped out, worried about getting Covid. Closer to home, relatives and friends, feeling isolated and alone or maybe trying to start a new life in another place, may need our support.
So many worthy causes! How do we do our part without exhausting both our bank account and our physical and emotional resources? How do we say “yes” to some, and “no” to the rest?
First and foremost, focus on yourself. You wouldn’t make a long car trip on an empty gas tank, so practice self care. Whether you choose meditation, yoga, running, reading, praying, or sitting in a park, don’t neglect these moments for recharging. Don’t skimp on sleep. Taking on too much may up your stress level and make it tough for you to sleep. If that happens, scale back.
It’s great to help stock a food bank or drop off a meal for a friend, but don’t neglect your own nutrition. Getting by on coffee, soft drinks, and snacks will not only leave you with less energy, but may impact your sleep. Also watch your alcohol consumption. Having the occasional cocktail or glass of wine is fine, but overdoing it may lead to an addiction.
Make a plan for charitable donations. Focus on the causes that are most important for you. Do you want to save the polar bear? Fight animal cruelty? Help veterans? Support families whose children are battling cancer or another serious disease? Should you concentrate on just one organization or spread your donations around to several? Whatever you decide, include those contributions in your monthly or yearly budget. If you can’t afford a monetary donation, then look for a way to contribute your time, perhaps by volunteering at an animal shelter or a hospital.
Resist entreaties from friends or co-workers to support their causes unless their views align with your own. If you turn them down, mention the non-profits you do support and explain that those groups remain the focus of your giving plan.
Some requests that fall into the “no” column may have nothing to do with charities. A relative or friend who wants to stay in your apartment for a weekend or longer because they can’t afford a hotel? If that works for you, fine. If not, just say “no.” Someone wants you to walk their dog or feed their cat while they’re away? If you turn them down, send some links to websites where they can find someone to care for their pet.
Saying “no” doesn’t mean you are a bad person. Quite the opposite. You are kind and generous, someone who is careful about how you allocate your time, energy, and money. Winnowing down your commitments will mean that every “yes” you declare will be more meaningful.
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