I used to say yes to everything, especially for work. I just kept rolling and rolling until I used up all my energy and my well went dry. I did realize at some point that I had too much on my plate and it was sapping the life out of me. My attempts to push back were heard, but ignored.
My doctors assessed me well. They knew I didn't like putting anyone down. I felt guilty whenever I turned down something and that was really bad for my well-being. The stress eventually bit me hard and I found myself in and out of the hospital for a whole year.
I realized a lot of things when I was hospitalized several times. Being forced to rest without access to the internet also does wonders for your well-being. Here's a few things I learned:
(1) The path to learning to say no starts with loving yourself. It was late already when I realized it. My body permanently said no to any activity that could stress me out.
(2) Set your priorities straight because your decisions and activities can critically affect your future. I would have probably been in a better position medically if I took time to recover after my first pulmonary embolism in 2018.
(3) Listen to your body and your doctors. Be your own spokesperson and speak up when you are unwell. I had to push for a second opinion because one doctor just kept dismissing my issue as severe asthma. I should have taken note of the doctor's name who laughed at me when I demanded a referral to see a new pulmo. I should have sent him the results of my scans.
(4) Saying no doesn't mean you're letting people down. It means you are prioritizing yourself and your wellness. It also doesn't mean you are being selfish.
(5) Surround yourself with people who will support you until you're well.
It is a journey and learning to say no (without the guilt) takes a long time. Just take it one step at a time and you'll get to a place where you love yourself and have better balance with your life.