Yes and No: the phases of our lives

Recently, I’ve been listening to the podcast Awesome With Alison. I have to say, it has changed my outlook on so many aspects in my life and my mental health. While I’ve greatly enjoyed how the life of the Church during Lent and Holy Week has impacted me, sometimes you need to listen to advice from other sources, especially if they help you stay sane in a world with so many demands on mothers. Awesome with Alison isn’t specifically directed at mother’s (my husband has actually gleaned a lot from it as well) but she is a working mom who has battled low points and is now sharing her wisdom, and for that I am extremely grateful.

I felt compelled to write a blog post about what I have learned and how I have been applying and connecting it to so many parts of my personal life in hopes that it may also be of help to someone facing the same struggles.

My favorite (and believe me it’s hard to pick) episode of the podcast is ‘Ep. 7: Are you in a “Yes!” phase or a “No!” phase?’ I think I vaguely knew about when to say Yes and when to say No, but this podcast helped me see it in much more black and white terms. I highly recommend listening through the whole podcast, but I’m also going to summarize and share what I took away from it below.

YES Phases

Yes phases are the times when you are mentally and physically recharged and are capable of handling what is going on in your own bubble (work, family, friends) and you are actually able to give more of yourself to others as well. For me this means I feel like I can somewhat keep my house in order (I do have a toddler) and I am not constantly lashing out or becoming frustrated with my children or my husband or myself.

When I am in that place, I can then begin taking on projects outside of my home, and give of myself to others who need my help or time.

Real life example: Two weeks ago, I was in a YES phase. I was able to go to Church for all of Holy Week, keep my house in order, I was doing great with my toddler, and I was able to help with extra church tasks such as singing, doing an egg hunt for kiddos on Pascha, and making food as well. I don’t say this to brag, but to show what a healthy YES phase looks like for me.

NO Phases 

A No phase means you have extinguished all your energy keeping up with all the things I listed above, and you are drained because you have given your energy away. In a No phase, you need to recognize that while you would love to help others, you must first help yourself get back to that energy level you had in the Yes phase in order to help others without grumbling or resenting them.

For me, a No phase means saying No to things outside of my home. I need to focus on my people, my home and what will get me back to a Yes phase again so I can help others. Because I really do like helping other people.

An important thing Alison shares about No phases is that you simply say No. You are not required to give an apology or excuse. And you do not have to feel guilty about the “No” afterward. In fact, you’re not allowed to feel guilty! I’m telling you that because when I simply don’t allow myself to feel the guilt it helps me get back to a Yes phase more quickly!

Real life example: I’m in a No phase right now. I was last week and I still am. All the “Yes’s” I gave out two weeks ago pushed me back into a No phase. I only realized that this week and have been able to turn it around fairly quickly. The thing is, with a No phase, you don’t have to say No to everything and everybody! For me, it means saying yes to:

  • my house and my kids,
  • social interaction (that fuels me instead of drains me),
  • playdates with friends
  • making sure I get enough sleep
  • exercise and healthy foods
  • learning (i.e. reading, listening to podcasts,etc.)
  • praying
  • talking (or writing)

Well, I talk a lot no matter what phase I’m in, but I think especially in a No phase I have to get things out of my head so I can feel better.

Making this list also helped me to finally figure out if I am an introvert or extrovert. As you can see from my list, I am clearly an extrovert and need social interaction to recharge. If you know you are an introvert, your list may look quite different! When I am fully recharged and ready to help others I actually become a bit of an introvert because I want to focus on the work required to help others and I become less interested in social time.

Last week I was in a No phase, but I was feeling guilty about it. This week, when I finally realized I was in a No phase, I stopped the guilt and did the things that fill me up. If I had continued in my drained state this week, not saying yes to the work in my home, thinking I just needed to stay home and relax and do nothing, I would have been stuck here for a lot longer. As it stands, I’m feeling like I’m almost fully recharged and ready to switch back into a Yes phase by this weekend. Which I knew I needed to do because I have things I have to do for others this weekend!

No phases can sometimes last a very long time, but that’s usually because you’re saying Yes to the wrong things (doing for others, taking on too many projects) in No phase.

How can I make this work for me?

If you stay aware of what phase you are in and make yourself do the work that is required to recharge you, you can stay at a happy medium. When you quickly switch back and forth between the phases you are going to be feeling successful and happy, because you are balancing your personal and external lives. Additionally, it has made it easier for me to brush off the guilt. If I know that I am regularly putting good into the world, then I can see it is not selfishness or laziness that is causing me to say no, but a self awareness that tells me I need to put on my oxygen mask before I can help someone else with theirs.

That being said, I’ve come to see how this very closely connects and assists in my awareness of my self care. A No phase means I’m in a self care phase. But self care doesn’t always look like manicures, lazing around, sitting on my phone. I more clearly see that self care for me means having things clean, learning, talking and growing. Now that I have a list of concrete activities and things that need to happen for me to get out of a No phase, I can turn to them and shove my life full of that self care so I can quickly get back to helping others (which I desperately love to do).

What if I don’t have time for a No Phase?

I do fully recognize that there are extenuating circumstances that can require us to say Yes when we are in a No phase. Some people truly do not have the option to say No. But it is important to remember that you really can say No more than you think you can.

I do believe (and hope) it may also be possible to be in both a Yes and No phase where you are fully capable of saying yes to others while still recharging yourself, but I’m sure it will take me awhile to get there. Since I’ve become aware of this idea however, my phases have greatly shortened because I’m doing something about them much sooner. I’m hoping that very soon I will be able to maybe even be so aware as to switch phases daily and get closer to the balance of taking care of myself and others simultaneously!

If you’re in the middle of a long No phase, take heart! You can get yourself out of it! Find those activities and needs that you are craving and devour them! Then when you are not hungry any more, you can feed others.

In my next post on this topic I’ll share how this awareness has helped my marriage and how I incorporate showing love to my spousein YES and NO phases.

All my love to you.

Cecelia

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