Learning to say no takes practice, but it’s essential in life with MS

There's power in prioritizing my health and honoring my limits

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by Desiree Lama |

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Many of my personal breakthroughs and discoveries occurred during college, when I was living in a new city as a young adult with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). One of those “aha!” moments was understanding that saying no takes practice, but it’s a necessary aspect of life.

A few years later, I’m still actively practicing this skill. There wasn’t a particular occurrence that brought on this realization, but rather an accumulation of burnout episodes and declines in my health.

For much of my life, I tended to prioritize other people’s needs and desires over my own — simply because I never wanted to disappoint anyone or create conflict. As a result, I said yes to just about everything, which took a toll on my well-being.

Throughout college, my plate was always filled to the point of breaking for the sake of productivity. Saying yes to every role, research or work opportunity, and social gathering that presented itself left my battery drained with little to no time to recover, which ultimately resulted in higher levels of chronic fatigue. In addition, I’m easily overwhelmed, and being so stressed exacerbated all of my MS symptoms.

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The benefits of saying no

During those times, there was a voice in the back of my head telling me to slow down, rest, and take a step back if needed. This voice was my mom.

My mom has repeatedly reminded me that my circumstances are different from those around me, but it’s taken me years to understand that slowing down, resting, and taking a step back can sometimes mean saying no.

Declining events or opportunities can take a considerable amount of practice if you’re accustomed to always accepting. But saying no is a way to prioritize ourselves and honor our limitations. Other benefits include establishing boundaries, limiting stress, and reducing feelings of resentment.

In 2022, a group of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin published a systematic review in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders examining the relationship between stress and MS. Evidence supported a link between stress and MS relapse, highlighting the importance of keeping our stress to a minimum.

Living with MS poses enough daily challenges and obstacles. We shouldn’t exhaust our precious time and energy if we don’t need to do so.

Saying no is easier said than done, but remember that “No” is a full sentence.

Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Mia Buchsein avatar

Mia Buchsein

How very true! I have a multitude of other physical and mental diagnoses other than my RRMS. I was putting myself out there mentally, physically, and financially for too long. My Bestie has been working very hard with me for several years to "Let Go" and see what happens. Releasing the ties that bind us to others. I was being taken for granted and used because I was allowing it. With my recent diagnosis, my Bestie and my counselor are tweaking my plan. Now it is even more detrimental to put myself under so much stress. It is an ongoing, conscious decision that I am making for ME! And guess what? The takers have "moved on" to their next giver. Wishing you all the best in your journey. Your story has inspired me to persevere. Thank you!


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