AUNT JOSEPHINE Sage advice.
OUR FREE TIME IS A CHANCE FOR US TO RELAX AND RECHARGE, BUT IT’S SO EASY FOR IT TO GET FILLED UP WITH SOCIAL PLANS. IS IT BETTER TO JUST SAY NO?
“IT CAN FEEL LIKE WE’RE SOCIALLY IMPRINTED TO AGREE TO EVERYTHING”
Q“Dear Aunt Josephine, I am a 35-year-old woman who feels overwhelmed by her diary. I have a lot of friends who live all over the place and, despite my best intentions, I always end up saying yes when people ask to meet up – and then regret it later. Sometimes, I get so stressed that I end up cancelling things, which then makes me feel guilty and cross with myself for not saying no in the rst place. I am a sociable, fun person to be around, but I’m also an extroverted introvert who really needs time to herself. I am currently looking at my diary for the next two months and it’s sending me into a tailspin.
I love meeting up with my friends and I do think I su er from a bit of FOMO, but it’s just become too much. I am also single and most of my friends are in relationships or have kids, so it feels like I’m always the one travelling to see them. Every year I vow to have more time to myself and I just nd myself here again.
Help! I feel like I need a diary secretary to step in and get me out of this mess.”
Desperately Seeking a Free Diary, London
A“Dear Desperately Seeking, oh, I hear you. So many times I have stared into the abyss of an out-of-control social schedule and felt utterly panic-stricken. But no matter how overwhelmed you might feel, try to remember – you’re the one who has lled up your diary. Other people only asked. You didn’t have to say yes. This is a very important point for a calendar over-committer (believe me, as I say this from experience!).
Let’s talk about saying no instead. It can feel like we’re socially imprinted to immediately agree to everything, especially if another person sells it in an enthusiastic way. But sometimes what works for someone else isn’t going to work for you. A good strategy I’ve learned is that if I’m invited to something, I stop for a moment and think: if this were on tomorrow, would I want to do it? If the answer is no, I probably won’t want to do it in two weeks’ or two months’ time either.
The fact is, we can’t – and don’t have to – do everything. Remember that your friends with families make these choices all the time. Just because you don’t have a partner or small person to think about, it doesn’t mean that your time is there to be o ered up, willy-nilly.
FOMO is a seductive thing. We think we’re missing out on the best experience with others, when actually what we need is to connect with ourselves. It sounds like you worry about letting others down, but in reality it’s probably not that big a deal to anyone else but you (unless it’s someone’s wedding, say). I once got a blunt but brilliant bit of advice from a friend when I’d yet again overcommitted and was stressing about cancelling on people. “Chill out,” she told me. “I’m sure they’d love to see you, but you’re not the centre of their world.”
Let’s talk practicalities. Look through your current diary – is there anything you can cancel or rearrange? Can you swap drinks out with friends for going to a restorative yoga class instead? Try a more yin and yang approach to things. We live in a fast and frenetic world and our ‘me’ time is something precious, which must be protected at all costs. You can also just be honest and tell people you need a little bit of R&R or a night to yourself.
It’s great that you’ve got a good social life, so make sure that you see your mates and have fun. But also enjoy the spontaneity and freedom that comes with having absolutely nothing booked in.
& author, Josephine Carnegie Journalist, life coachcounselling but is holds a certificate in holisticout good advice. best known for giving