My Life

When to Say No: Learning You Can’t do it All

For me, it took a while until I actually made a change in my over-committed schedule. I was a competitive swimmer for a little over twelve years and as the years went on, the more committed I got. Before I knew it, I was waking up at 4 in the morning to swim for 2.5 hours, showering at the local LA Fitness. Then rushing to school for the next seven hours of my day. Right when school ended, I went straight to the pool again for another 3-hour practice and then off to my weight trainer for another 2 hours of trying to get swole. My life revolved around swim and because of this, I had to make room for school. Due to this chaotic schedule and the fact that my only goal was to make it to junior nationals, my mental health was nowhere near my number one priority. For almost 5 years straight, this was my schedule year round and it only got worse in summer.

Not only did swim consume my life, but I joined clubs at school, did high school swim, and stayed very active at my church. Trying to keep grades high enough to be in NHS, still participating in clubs, going to Life Teen events at church, and working out for 7.5 hours a day, my mental health evaporated. Finally realizing the toll all of this was taking on my mental and physical health, I knew something needed to change.

Starting school again or going into college, there are a multitude of different activities being thrown at you with a very tempting nature. Clubs, intramural sports, talks, social events that usually include free food, and so many more begin to fill your daily schedule to its brim. Learning when to say no, and still have free time for yourself is beyond imperative. In order to spread the Gospel with your whole self, we have to be healthy, happy, and whole. With no room in your schedule to ensure time to take care of yourself mentally and physically, things can become overwhelming fast. Even though all these commitments seem like the best idea at the time, you will soon begin to realize the dwindling nature of your mental health.

As someone who used to be drowning in over-commitment, I’ve learned some helpful ways to overcome the temptation to say “yes” to everything. Here are a few of the steps I’ve used to examine each decision I make:

1. Identify what’s most important to you.

Committing yourself to something that will take over a lot of your time has to have meaning and be important enough to you to change your whole schedule. Not only do we have to examine the pros and cons of the decision itself, but also how it will impact your routine. Making sure that committing to this opportunity will still allow you to have time for yourself. That it will be fun, exciting, and something to look forward to throughout your week.

2. See how much time you have available for this new commitment.

Still having time for your academic commitments, job commitments, and even extracurricular commitments, is there room for this new responsibility? Will you be able to have time for yourself if you add this to your schedule? Does this new commitment prevent you from being an authentic disciple of Christ, by infringing upon prayer time, Mass time, or time with your faith community? Making sure that any obligation, new or old, does not consume your whole day is crucial. We have to keep in mind that, even though a potential new commitment may seem enticing, if it doesn’t keep us healthy, happy, and whole, then is it worth it?

3. What will you Have to change in order to fit this in your schedule.

Usually when you add an event to your agenda, it affects other things and there are changes that need to be made. Try to only change what isn’t as important to you. For example, when I began to take on a larger responsibility at swim, school and church were also my top priorities. I would make changes to adjust to youth group events, or tutoring after school because to me, those were more important than swim. Listing the importance of everything you do can also be a helpful reminder of where your priorities are at.

4. Is this still something you desire?

At the end of all of this reflection and planning, make sure you still want to be a part of whatever new obligation you’re considering. If you try it out for a little while and decide it is too much or not your style, there is no shame in trying something new or making more time for yourself. Take frequent check ups to reflect on how you’re doing with your routine and if you notice you’ve started to overcommit, take a step back and begin to make changes.

About the Author

Kate Seddon

Currently struggling through Junior Year of High School in Phoenix, AZ. If I’m not in adoration you will surely find me swimming my heart out at practice. My love for Chacos, dogs, smiling, youth group, and coffee is overwhelming. Give me a good book (preferably one by Fulton J. Sheen), some coffee, and mountains and I will be your best friend forever.