• When it comes to quelling anxiety, ideas for different strategies abound; there are books, balms, blankets, and beyond. But according to Kristen Bell, an advocate for mental-health realness, one of the best, simplest, and most effective ways to self-soothe just requires two small letters. In her keynote speech at last week's Mindbody Bold Conference, Bell shared that the power of saying no more often has been a saving grace to her as she navigates the struggles with anxiety and depression.

    a man standing in front of a table: Saying no more can be helpful for quelling your anxiety levels? Photo: Getty Images/Luis Alvarez Saying no more can be helpful for quelling your anxiety levels

    “I realized that my codependency was so crippling that I couldn’t say no to people,” she said. “So what I’ve been doing this month is practicing saying no to people in a very kind way.” But that certainly doesn't mean prioritizing boundaries and becoming a no person are easy to do, especially for those who struggle with anxiety.

    "Perception is heavily tied in with anxiety," says psychotherapist Jennifer Silvershein, LCSW. "So often an individual may fear that by saying no it will give the wrong impression or reflect badly on them. I teach my clients that saying no is a sign of respect for ourselves—it says, 'I know my boundaries and I'm going to honor them.'"

    Beyond saying no more often being a powerful way to prioritize your needs, saying yes out of obligation not only doesn't do you favors in the mental-health department, but it also might make matters worse. "Saying yes out of guilt and forcing yourself to go somewhere or participate in something you'd prefer not to is only going to increase your stress levels and therefore increase your anxiety," Silvershein says.

    So, remember, "no" is a complete sentence, and you shouldn't have?to feel like you owe anyone an explanation. But, it's possible that when you pull the no card, the recipient may ask for some detail, and since Silvershein is well aware that may increase anxiety levels, she has just the solution: "Respond and give enough information so that the conversation doesn't have to continue," she says. "An example would be, 'Unfortunately, I'm unavailable.' If someone were to ask further since you've already said you're unavailable, you can casually say that you have a prior engagement. Even if this is just watching Netflix with your dog at home, it's still a prior plan."

    And if you still feel that on-the-spot terror of saying no, she suggests a line I use before committing to absolutely anything: "Thanks for letting me know, I'll get back to you after I check my schedule." This buys you time to craft your decline, and, in a perfect world, you'll be able to deliver that no from the comfort of wherever the heck you want.

    Gallery: 27 Best Exercises for Mental Health (Provided by Best Life)

    Anyone who's sat on a cozy couch across from a therapist has probably felt a whole lot of relief by the end of the session. The only problem? Afterward, you're stuck with a hefty bill that can easily be a couple hundred bucks per session. While the effectiveness of that time spent with an expert has been proven time and time again, there are ways to save money and find your happy place all from the comfort of your home (or backyard!). Here are more than two dozen exercises that will improve your mental health and won't cost you a thing. And for more ways to boost your mood on your own, check out The 25 Best Instant Mood Boosters.

    Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article.
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