Saying NO!  No Guilt Needed!!

Saying NO! No Guilt Needed!!

Believe it or not, saying no helps you in refueling your heart that is if you can let go of the guilt that often accompanies it. Let’s reflect together.

As nurses saying no is often one of the toughest things we need to do. Saying no to an extra shift, an extra project or committee function brings with it often the burden of guilt. Oh the heaviness of guilt is unbearable to many of us, which results in saying yes when our heart really knows that we should be saying no. As nurses, we are the ultimate givers. We give and give and give some more at the ultimate expense of ourselves. On top of this some of us are people pleasers or have an overwhelming need to be liked which adds to the burden. The new grad trap in this saga is that they want to feel like they belong and are a part of the team so yes in the answer regardless of what they truly want to say. Any of this sound familiar?

With the escalation of pure exhaustion, burnout, and compassion fatigue within our profession we must learn immediately to say no to some of the negotiables in our lives. We are each responsible and accountable for implementing our own personal boundaries and engaging in self-care. We, for the most part are not very good at this as many of us put others first at the expense of ourselves. We need to change this perspective and put ourselves on the top of our own list. When we take care of ourselves, we will have more to give to others. There are personal belief patterns that we must be aware of that can derail our efforts for self-care. (i.e. I have a belief pattern that rest and relaxation only comes after all the work is done…guess what the work is never done) What might be a belief pattern that trips you up when you need to say no but say yes instead? Awareness if the key. Guess what, saying NO is one of the best self-care tools in our tool box. It really is. The more you choose to say it the more natural it will become.

Someone once told me that no is a complete sentence!! I have shared this many times over the years. No is a complete sentence!! Often we want to give a long drawn out explanation in hopes others will understand why we are saying no. Maybe more importantly we are trying to justify or rationalize to ourselves because of the burden of the anticipated guilt that comes along with the answer no. Be aware that our minds create great suffering for us. Fundamentally, guilt is just a feeling, however, when our mind takes on the judgment because of saying no is when it becomes a heavy burden. To this end, we must feel the feelings of guilt, but we can interrupt the judgment by being in charge of our mind! When the judgment comes, talk back, “nope I am not going to carry the burden of guilt today, because I am honoring what is best for me today. I need this day of rest and relaxation so that I can bring my best the rest of the week.”

  • Learn to say no, it gets easier as you say it more often in your life.
  • Have a voice, speak into what your needs are.
  • Use the don’t/do technique if an explanation is necessary when saying no. i.e. “What I don’t want is for you to feel that I am not a team player/what I do need is a couple of days off to rest and recuperate.  Please honor my need here.”  Be really clear about what your needs are and ask for the respect you desire.
  • Wait for 24 hours before saying yes to any requests of your free time.  Take those 24 hours to reflect on the following questions.  Does this add value to my life right now? Does it help me accomplish the goals I have in place?  Does it honor me?  When this date/time come will I feel angry or resentful because I said yes? What is best for me right now?  If I say yes to this, what will I have to say no to?  Does saying yes to this prevent me from focusing on something that is more important in my life?
  • Set clear personal and professional boundaries.  Then honor yourself through them.

Each of us are responsible and accountable for warding off complete exhaustion, burnout and compassion fatigue. Learning to say no, is one of the best tools we have to honor ourselves when feeling overwhelmed and over extended. Ultimately, we may need to give ourselves permission to say no more often. Doing so will be another step toward refueling our hearts.

What do you need to start saying no to?  How will you hold yourself accountable in doing so?


Contact me:

Cella Hartline Cella Janisch-Hartline, RN, BSN, PCC, Certified Professional Coach, Nursing Leadership Senior Manager for Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative has been involved in various healthcare industry leadership positions for the past 40 years. The majority of her career has been spent working in an acute care critical access facility for nearly 25 years. Throughout her work experience, she has learned most of her leadership skills and techniques through the school of “hard knocks”. Cella’s passion for teaching leadership tips and techniques earned her the 2018 Outstanding Educator Award through the National Rural Health Association. She is well-known for her humorous, engaging and personable facilitation style.


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