When “no” benefits you more than “yes”

Remember when I previously wrote that “no” is a full sentence? Have you responded in that way since my post? 

Let’s face it, “yes” is easier. It lessons our feelings of guilt. It makes others happy. What constant “yes” answers can do to us and our health can be overwhelming (in both directions I guess). You may experience something wonderful or it be a once in a lifetime experience, but it could also lessen your ability to manage your health conditions and cause more distress than happiness.

Responding constantly with “yes” can wear us down and wipe us out. It can make our immune system plummet. It can mean that when we finally have a “me” moment, it makes our body crash. It can induce sleeping heavier than we’ve slept in weeks, maybe months. Have you experienced that groggy feeling after a full night’s sleep plus a morning nap? That doesn’t equate to being healthy. 

The Mayo Clinic published that “During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep.  Sleep deprivation may decrease production of [those]. Your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases.”* 

“Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”*

Lethargy, absent other health conditions or medications that have it as a side effect, isn’t something our bodies should be enduring. Headache and lethargy seem to form an alliance during the duration of our migraine attack time period. 

Starting from the top, “Migraine and tension-type headache are two most common types of primary headaches.”** We know that many factors can impact inception and management of migraine attacks. 

“Weather, smell, smoke and light were reported as the precipitating factors that differentiate migraine from tension-type headache.”** It turns out that “stress is a precipitating factor for both migraine and tension type headache.”**

Stress is inherent in our lives. Would saying “no” to a few things you currently say “yes” to – lower your stress? Food for thought. 

I credit my current positive management of migraine to a few things: a great neurologist, success with Botox for migraine treatments, emergency medication that I can count on, and listening to my body.    

Many write off the “listening to your body” message, but I’m here to share that it helps me. And the more sharing of successes in the migraine community, the more likely it will help another migraine patient find relief and a plan of action that works for them.    

Listening to my body includes saying both no and yes. I’m certain some of the no’s I’ve said in the past few years alone have helped me navigate away from some migraine attacks. For example, I don’t need to be staying up until all hours of the morning. I can’t be run ragged. I need some lower-energy expenditure during my weeks. It’s not physically possible for me to run at 100% day in and day out. That doesn’t end well. 

As our migraine community knows, having migraine is not just a here and there occurrence. It doesn’t start and stop at the drop of a hat. There are many variables. It’s like wave after wave washing ashore. The intensity and depth of it, along with the aftermath can be crushing. 

“Post-headache lethargy was more frequent among the migraineurs.”**

We have to take care of ourselves. I understand more and more the statement shared by flight attendants just before departure, “put your oxygen mask on first, then turn to help others.” 

The National Cancer Institute defines lethargy as: “A condition marked by drowsiness and an unusual lack of energy and mental alertness. It can be caused by many things, including illness, injury, or drugs.”

This is why yes and no should be given equal weight. No judgment, no guilt, no “whys” or “why nots,” and certainly no facial expressions in response that are clear indicators of disapproval. Our lifestyle, decisions, and actions directly coincide with our health. 

In this next season of life, why not join me and consciously choose to stand in your power? That includes truly examining the moments that arise in your life and make decisions on what is best for you at that time. 

What I need today, what my body needs today, can and may be different than tomorrow. It comes back to my body – the sleep I’ve gotten, the foods I’ve eaten, the stress I’ve experienced, if I’m having a bad medical day, the successes that I’ve had, the obstacles I’m working on overcoming, and the millions of other thoughts, things, and actions floating around. 

“No” can also be a silent type of thing. For me, it can be putting my phone on ‘do not disturb’ mode during certain evening hours. I can decide when that is. It can also be not overbooking myself on weekends.  At times, it can also be as simple as just heating up something from the freezer, instead of compiling a full dinner entrée from scratch. 

Also – just as vital – it’s okay to answer “no” in a doctor’s office. Try to be honest with your doctor if you haven’t been taking a certain medication each day. If we are truly trying to reach better health, sharing the honest truth is a non-negotiable. 

It can also be a “no” I don’t want to move forward with that treatment (for whatever reason you decide it’s not for you). 

Some days I’m more pleased with myself than other days. It isn’t easy to succeed at not overdoing it when life gets busy. No isn’t always an easy answer. It’s important to remind ourselves that our health should be a priority.


**Gupta R, Bhatia MS. Comparison of clinical characteristics of migraine and tension type headache. Indian J Psychiatry. 2011 Apr;53(2):134-9. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.82538. PMID: 21772645; PMCID: PMC3136015.

Coming next: Pediatric headache a very common issue says Victoria Karian, CPNP-PC