Like many girls who grew up in the 1960s, I was a people pleaser, nourishing others before myself. I never wanted to call attention to myself for fear of upsetting those around me. Society trained me to dumb it down so as not to outshine others. I needed to learn to say no.
As a result, I was quiet and non-confrontational. I played small, never wanting to appear unfeminine. I basked in the natural receptive energy of the feminine (which is not a bad thing when there is balance.)
Saying Yes when I wanted to Say No Made My Health Suffer
I said yes when I wanted to say no. While my gut wanted to say “No”, that word was quickly buried and the “Yes” emerged. After a while, I didn’t even feel the split second gut punch. I began to ignore myself.
When you cannot act according to your intuition, you do not feel fully alive. You cut off your emotions, the positive and the negative. So, it becomes harder to feel the joys and aggravations of daily life, harder to concentrate on the tasks at hand. Not being fully alive in the present keeps them more firmly imprisoned in the past.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, pg. 67
Although I did not realize this at the time, I was denying my spirit and authentic self. I basically shut myself down.
There was no barometer telling me what was safe or threatening. I was at war with myself.
Unable to read my body’s messages, I learned to rely on external regulation. For some, this results in reliance on medications, alcohol and other substances. For me, I sought reassurance, wanting to fit in, and complying with the wishes of others.
As a result, my health suffered.
The Result – The Stress Response
When we deny our gut feelings and say yes when we mean no, we create stress in our bodies.
Adrenaline is Released
We release adrenaline, a hormone produced in our adrenal glands. This sets the body in motion to deal with the threat it perceives.
Remember the fight or flight response, we were all taught during fire drills at school? Same thing.
Adrenalin releases glucose from our blood stream and increases our heart rate and blood pressure. Your muscles are now primed to meet the challenge you are facing.
Cortisol is Released
When adrenaline gets depleted, we release cortisol, our main stress hormone. It prepares the body in the same ways that adrenaline does for the fight or flight reaction.
In these acute situations, cortisol actually reduces physical pain and inflammation.
When the stress or perceived stress passes, the physiological processes of blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar regulation return to normal.
Problems arise when cortisol is chronically elevated. It never shuts off, so our bodies are in a constant fight or flight mode.
Think of a car’s engine running 24/7. Eventually it will run out of gas.
This is exactly what happens in our body. A chronic flood of cortisol signals the adrenals to stop producing more of this stress hormone. The body decides enough is enough.
A Domino Effect
A domino effect appears, affecting other aspects of our health.
According to where a person is most vulnerable, one or more of these physiological processes may be thrown out of balance:
- Brain fog and cloudy thinking
- Memory and learning
- Bone and muscle health
- Cell energetics (glucose homeostasis and carbohydrate metabolism)
- Immune regulation
- Detox capacity,
- Weight and fat distribution.
FDN has trademarked the term “Metabolic Chaos” for all that can go wrong as a result of this domino effect.
Symptoms of Metabolic Chaos include GI problems – gas, bloating, constipation, poor digestion, inflammation, migraines, muscle aches, asthma, allergies, insomnia, reproductive function (sex hormones), and any other symptom you might be experiencing.
Think about it. . . when our ancestors were running from Sabertooth tigers, they didn’t need to be digesting their food, fortifying their immune system, or making babies. The body prioritizes main threats to survival first.
The insidious effects of constantly elevated stress hormones include memory and attention problems, irritability, and sleep disorders. They also contribute to many long-term health issues, depending on which body system is most vulnerable in a particular individual.
The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, pg. 70
Nervous System Changes
I felt fatigued, depressed and weary for a large portion of my life. Spontaneous involvement in one’s own life is sacrificed for the energy it takes to suppress the inner chaos.
My high school/college boyfriend knew this about me on some level when he said to me, “Grab a glove and get in the game.”
Our bodies speak to us in physical manifestations when we bottle it up inside and do not express ourselves.
Bessel Van Der Kolk said it best, “Not participating fully in one’s life because your energy is spent suppressing who you really are can result in a whole range of physical symptoms including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and other autoimmune diseases.”
In the end, ignoring your gut instincts and true self can eat away at your own identity and purpose. This can result is physical ailments and troubles in both your work and personal life.
How We Can Fix This
- Get your hand on the proper lab tests to uncover healing opportunities in your body.
- Heal and seal your gut by getting rid of pathogens and other stress inducers.
- Balance your hormones.
- Make lifestyle changes in the areas of Diet, Rest, Exercise, Stress Reduction and Supplementation. These 5 pillars of health have equal importance. There are many techniques to de-stress the mind and body and get a person out of fight or flight mode.
- Continued Self Care to produce energy and clear your mind.
Just as airline personnel instruct us to put on our oxygen masks before helping our children, the same principle applies to our health.
If you do not have enough fuel, you cannot and will not be there for others consistently.
Self care means different things to different people:
- Reading a book for 20 min
- Bubble bath
- Cooking a meal
- Taking a walk
- Visiting a friend
- Do what works for you
A crucial component of self care is Learning to Say No. Listen to your gut, trust it, and say, “No” when every fiber in your being is saying no. Give yourself permission to make your own wants and needs a priority. That is the ultimate self care.
As an example, a few years ago, a friend asked me to bake for a family celebration. I love this friend and her family and so I said yes.
I really wanted to say no, because I wanted to focus on other projects I had started. As a result, I felt tired and resentful for days.
I burned the goodies a few times and had to start from scratch. It took so much longer than it had to.
Being miserable reminded me that I didn’t want to feel that way again. The next time I would say no and show myself the love and compassion I show to others.
Clear Your Mind
A few years ago, I experienced brain fog quite often. When you ignore your instincts and experience pain, it can lead to brain fog.
It is very difficult to think rationally when all your energy is going into suppressing your emotions. Say no when you mean it and your energy will be freed up to embrace life.
I want to continue embracing my feminine energy. It is naturally receptive and, in my past, I allowed myself to be taken advantage of because I didn’t impose boundaries.
Saying no to a partner, child or any family member, boss, or colleague may be difficult, but you will feel empowered, as if a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders.
What I Have Learned
When we say no when we mean no and be our true authentic selves, we can be happy in all facets of our lives.
I strive, on a daily basis, to remove the barriers that prevent me from becoming my best self. This required checking in with myself and feeling what it is I am feeling.
Good or bad, feelings guide us, but only if we listen to them.
Every single one of us has unique gifts. We cannot possibly share these with the world if we are denying and not expressing our true feelings.
Our Children Are Our Greatest Teachers
I was recently a guest at a most beautiful wedding in which the bride vowed to continue working every single day to become the highest version of herself to nourish the relationship.
Wow! I was deeply touched by this wisdom. Most people I know didn’t consider authenticity, emotional intelligence, and self growth as a crucial component of nurturing a marriage.
These 20-somethings realize that showing up for themselves first is the recipe for showing up for others. They have seen parents who have not fully shown up for themselves and thus, were ill-equipped to nurture their relationships.
My children teach me every single day about love, self-love and commitment to oneself.
One of my greatest accomplishments has been to raise my kids to use their voices and say no when they mean no.
Sometimes I feel uncomfortable when they say no and push back at me. In the end, though, I am happy because I know I have to work on the buttons they push in me. That is my journey and they are making me strive to become a better person.
After all, we are here to live and learn.
How Has Saying Yes When you wanted to say No Affected Your Health?