Saying "No": Overcoming the Guilt of Declining

Last updated: January 2023

Am I the only one who struggles with saying, “No,” when asked to do something? I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve put myself in situations that I should have said no and didn’t. My body paid the price. There have been so many times when I have compromised my own health and well-being, simply because I felt that I couldn’t or shouldn’t say no. Declining invitations to participate in activities that I really want to do is so hard. Sometimes the weight of the guilt can feel worse than the pain and swelling in my joints.

To be fair, this really is nothing new for me. Even before psoriatic arthritis came along, it has always been my first inclination to help or participate whenever I was asked to. I’ve always been a “doer,” and willing to volunteer or pitch in if help was needed. Even now, when I have more bad days than good, it is still my first inclination to agree to help.

The dilemma in declining when living with psoriatic arthritis

The problem with this is that it often leads me to agree to things that may not be in the best interests of my poor body. My heart desperately wants to be able to be my old self. The rest of my body is left with following through on the demands of my heart, which often leads to at least several days of recovery from the pain, fatigue, and inflammation. Because of this, I experience a great deal of guilt every single time I say no to the things that my heart, and my friends and family, ask me to do.

How to deal with the guilt of declining


I know it sounds crazy. But if I take a moment to breathe, I remind myself that this is just one moment in time. It is one invitation. Just one request. If I can’t do this one, there will be many more that, once my body is in a little better shape, I can do.

Proper planning and accommodations

By now, I’ve gotten a pretty good idea about what kind of recovery time my body needs. I still struggle with knowing just how far I can push myself, but at least I can accurately gauge the recovery time on different activities. With proper planning, I may be able to suggest some changes to an activity which would allow me to go. Maybe a different day, shorter time, or slightly different plans would keep me from having to say no at all. If I don’t HAVE to say no, then I don’t have to deal with the guilt.

Ask "why?" and explore the guilt

Why am I feeling guilty? Am I putting this guilt on myself, or are my friends and family responding in a way designed to make me feel guilty when I say no? While there are solutions to handling the guilt found in both, it is very important to understand the source of the guilty feelings. Are they self-inflicted or not?

How do you say no when PsA flares make you decline?

Do your family and friends accept that you have to say no more often that you’d like? Do they understand that sometimes, no matter how hard our hearts want to do something, our bodies just aren’t up to the task? What ways have you found that allow you to decline guilt-free?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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