Two people having coffee

If others leave you upset, burned out or overwhelmed, you may need to look inward—and speak out.

You may need to start saying “no” in your personal and professional relationships.

“Saying ‘no’ has its rewards,” says Dr. Philip Farley, MD, a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist at

Memorial Hermann Mental Health Crisis Clinic—Meyerland. “Not only will you be less prone to burnout, anger and resentment, but advocating for yourself gives you more self-confidence and control of your life.”

A focus on me-time can have physical payoffs, such as allowing time for working out, eating healthy and meditation. Those measures can fuel your self-confidence and energy to face the trials of daily life.

So, stop yielding. Your mind—and body—will thank you.

As for how to fight for your rights, it all depends on the relationship.

You and your partner should work as a team—sharing your feelings, burdens and struggles as well as juggling the demands on your time.

Setting rules is easiest with acquaintances and strangers.

But at work – that’s dicier. Let’s start with the boss, or bosses.

“You have to ask yourself ‘who wants the relationship to work out more,’” Dr. Farley says. “To be well-regarded and to advance in your job, you may need to compromise.”

If that’s the case, pitch options that work for you, but highlight the benefits to them. You also can convey your time constraints and desire to perform at your best, then ask them to prioritize your tasks and ease your deadlines.

Problem: Your Coworkers Expect You to Pick Up the Slack for the Entire Team—Even if it Means You'll be Stuck Working Late.

Solution: You want to be a team player, but you also have the right to speak up if you feel trampled on. “It’s easier to tell a coworker than a supervisor that something doesn’t work for you, but you don’t want to cause a rift,” Dr. Farley says.

Look at your pattern of behavior. Were you the kid who ended up doing team projects by yourself while the others goofed off? Does low self-esteem drive you to stifle your feelings and needs?

Maybe you’ve set certain expectations that you and others have of you. But the past need not be the present or the future.

Problem: You Fear Losing Your Job or a Relationship.

Solution: Many relationships are imbalanced, so you should calculate who has more power and who may be more willing to lighten your mental or physical load.

If they have the most power, you may have to do as they ask or risk cutting the cord that binds you. After all, Dr. Farley says. “You can’t tell the teacher you won’t do your homework.”

Problem: You Expect People to Know What You Need.

Solution: You cannot read minds. Nor can they. Speak up and spare both of you the headache and drama. “Be direct on what you want out of your relationship,” Dr. Farley says.

Problem: You Consistently Compromise or, Worse, Capitulate to Keep the Peace.

Solution: A behavioral therapist can arm you with understanding and tactics, he says. “You need to make decisions based on what’s best for you, not the people around you. If you give in to the point of negating a boundary you’d set, you lose your integrity.”

Problem: They've Invaded Your Privacy or Space.

Solution: If you’re dismayed to discover someone has posted a picture of you on social media without asking, let them know how you feel and ask them to remove it. That’s your right. “The digital world has brought a whole new layer to relationships,” he says.

Problem: You're too Uncomfortable to Set Rules.

Solution: Practice empowers.

“You may not have been taught how to set boundaries,” he says. “This is an opportunity to grow as a person. You may realize some relationships aren’t healthy for you and you need to end them.”

Problem: You Don't Know What to Say.

Solution: “Communicate what your boundary is clearly, calmly, graciously and firmly,” Dr. Farley says. “You can say, ‘That just won’t be possible’ or ‘That’s personal and not something I’m comfortable sharing.’”

Any time it’s important to you, you need to address it and maintain steely resolve, he says. “Setting boundaries should be at the top of your list of self-care for your mental health.”

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