You’re finally home from work, dinner and the dishes are done, and part of you just wants to relax on the couch and watch a show. But another part of you feels guilty if you do that, because that work report really should go out tomorrow morning. What’s the right balance?

Or you promised your daughter that you’d read an extra chapter in her story before bedtime, but you are exhausted and can’t imagine extending the bedtime routine tonight. What do you do?

These are moments where autopilot can run the show and push you into saying “yes”, when you might really need to use a “no.” But how can you say “no” and truly feel some peace with the decision?

Well here’s a micro-mindfulness process to try:

  1. When you feel torn about a decision like the ones above, start by naming your feelings to yourself first. For example: “I’m exhausted” Pause and just say and feel it for a second.
  2. Next, take a few seconds to reach for kindness for those feelings, and say something kind to yourself in response. For example: “It was a really tough day today. I didn’t get many breaks at all. But I pushed through because I care, and I want to do a good job.”
  3. Then ask yourself if it FEELS reasonable to proceed in the direction of giving more. Maybe it does? Maybe it doesn’t? Put attention on your chest or your heart area, let go of thinking for a second, and wait for an intuitive answer to “pop” into your mind.
  4. If you land on saying “no” to someone or something. Then say something like this to yourself … “Sometimes I deserve to say ‘no’ to others, so I can say yes to myself.”
  5. Next ask “Is there anything I could do, or plan, to help me feel better about this TRADEOFF?”
    • Maybe you share more information with your daughter and explain that you are very tired and feel sad that the abbreviated story might disappoint her.
    • Or maybe you ask your spouse to tell you that you deserve to let the report go until the morning. That may sound silly, but asking for support in this very specific way, can still often hit the mark.

Why this process can help:

When you intentionally check-in with your full experience, including all that you feel about a decision, you allow yourself to ‘digest’ the emotion. That reduces stress so that you can make a more contained decision, without nagging guilt or resentment.

Contrast that with autopilot habits of trying to “yes” in every case: If you never give yourself the option to care for your needs, you must emotionally “check-out’ at some point, or irritability flares up.

This micro-mindfulness process lets you settle into the present moment and consciously weigh out your vulnerable needs and your strength-based intentions.

Jessica Kiesler
Jessica Kiesler

Jessica is the creator of The VisibleU Method. Over the last 20 years she has helped hundreds of busy adults create more balance within and with others. Jessica received her master’s degree in applied psychology from New York University, and completed mediation training at the Columbia University School of Law. She has held numerous clinical roles, managed clinical operations for a national EAP, and advised executives on employee-relations concerns at Fortune 1000 companies.