Living with Chronic Pain

The Importance of Saying “No”


Saying no can be difficult for many individuals; this is especially true for those with chronic pain conditions. A disconnection from family, friends and coworkers is often experienced by those living with chronic pain. They may say yes to avoid conflict or feelings of guilt, obtain approval from others, and remove the fear of missing out. Though saying yes may seem like the simplest or best option, learning to say no when needed is beneficial for physical and mental health.

Practicing saying no, in a direct, confident and friendly manner, and setting boundaries helps it to become easier. The importance of saying no includes the following:

  • Stress is reduced. Over scheduling or committing creates stress, which can result in physical symptoms, such as gastrointestinal problems. It can also increase symptoms of chronic pain or chronic illnesses. Learning to say no when needed reduces stress, while supporting physical and mental health.
  • Fewer feelings of anger or resentment occur. When a person says yes to a displeasing task, feelings of anger or resentment often occur towards the person initiating the request. These feelings have a negative impact on well-being and relationships.
  • Having to say no later is prevented. Some people say yes to avoid conflict at the moment, but have little intentions of following through. Saying no after-the-fact can contribute to feelings of betrayal or disappointment. Learning to say no when there is no intention of completing the task prevents these negative feelings.
  • Honesty is allowed. When an individual says yes despite how they are feeling, they are being dishonest. Saying yes can force them to downplay their chronic pain or hide a chronic illness. Saying no allows for honesty and can also provide the opportunity for an informative conversation concerning chronic pain.
  • Time for rest, self-care, and other activities is preserved. When an individual’s schedule is overloaded due to saying yes, other enjoyable activities tend to fall to the wayside. Time is a limited resource; therefore, saying no to one task preserves time for higher-priority activities that are important for mental and physical well-being. Rest and self-care are necessary to avoid higher pain levels. Attending activities and watching instead of participating is acceptable and can provide the best of both worlds.
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