Hands up who feels overwhelmed?


According to research*, 8 in 10 women reading this will be raising their hands. Eight in ten! That makes it normal. Are you ok with that? Are we willing to accept overwhelm as the expected state of women in the 21st century? No. Way.


Overwhelm is our body’s response to ongoing, persistent levels of stress. It is a survival state from which we have reduced decision making capacity, find it harder to solve problems and are less able to collaborate with others.


How can we start to regain control, step out of survival mode, and start thriving again?

One simple, little word.


No is radical.

No is counter-cultural.

No is hard.

No is your friend.

We aren’t encouraged to become friends with No. Good girls accommodate, agree, help, support.

These are the messages we often consume from an early age and they are not the truth.

But they do mean that saying No can feel really hard. And so, we need to practice. To build the new habit. To retrain our brain.

Try these simple techniques to build your ‘No’ muscle:


  • Find something small to say ‘No’ to every day. Get used to hearing yourself say or type the word.  “No, I can’t do that today”, “No thank you”
  • Start with No. Put a big post-it note on your computer screen or fridge with the word No on it.  When requests come in, pause and look at the post-it. What would it feel like to say No? What would it mean for you to say No? For the other person? What do you choose? Even if you don’t say No this time, you’ve given it careful thought. You haven’t been a knee-jerk, regret it later, Yes.


  • Ask yourself, if I am a Yes to this, what am I a No to? Myself? My family? My health? My space?
  • Get a No accountability buddy. Buddy up with someone who is equally committed to stepping out of overwhelm and set targets that you can check in with each other on. Celebrate your successes together. Support each other when it feels harder.
  • Journal on what is stopping you. Get curious. Stay out of judgement. Understanding what is stopping you from saying No is a powerful place of awareness to start from. Setting or resetting your boundaries by getting comfortable with saying No paves the way out of overwhelm and towards clarity. It is saying Yes to you. Yes to what you need, want and value.

Check out Caroline’s 5 top tips for managing overwhelm (And yes, one of them is Learn to say No!)



This article was written by career coach, Caroline Doran.


Through her individual and group coaching programmes, she supports ambitious, purpose-led women to step out of overwhelm, build a clear vision for their future and establish the foundations that will allow them to have the impact they desire whilst thriving, not merely surviving.


* Stress Are We Coping? Research Report by The Mental Health Foundation, 2018