Eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and following an enjoyable exercise routine are all part of physical self-care. Along with caring for the physical self, emotional and spiritual self-care also play a significant role in living a healthy and satisfying life. Like physical health, emotional well-being has various components. This article describes how to tune into your inner compass and develop the skill of learning how to set healthy limits by using your yes’s and no’s wisely.  

What Research Tells Us 

Yes and no are what boundaries are made of: we use these simple words to establish a limit. In her book, A Mind at Home With Itself, author Byron Katie says, “Every no I say is a yes to myself.” Being generous to yourself and respecting your physical and emotional limits can reduce the stress of saying yes, even when you know the yes is not in your own best interest.  

A total of 2,000 Americans responded to a 2016 survey asking questions about their work-life balance and stress levels (, 2016). The findings indicated:

  • 60% of respondents admitted to having difficulty achieving a work-life balance and having enough hours in the day to complete all of their tasks.
  • 46% determined they had little to no time to relax.
  • 41% said it had been six months since they felt completely relaxed and stress free.

On a 1–10 stress scale with 1 being totally relaxed and 10 being highly stressed, the average home score was 5 and work was 6.5.

So how do you choose where your yes’s and no’s can be used most effectively? In her TEDx talk, Good Boundaries Free You, Sarri Gilman, licensed marriage and family therapist, discussed an inner compass with two directions: yes and no. She encouraged people to tune into how their body feels when they say yes or no to something. Tolerating what she called stormy emotions from others is a deterrent to saying no when you know it is not what the other person wants to hear. Additionally, your compass can become clouded over from disuse, arguing with the direction it is pointing (yes or no), and from none other than stress itself. 

How to Practice 

You can more clearly see the direction your compass is pointing by paying attention to the why behind the yes or the no. Consider a time when you said yes to something just so someone would think well of you, or a time you took work home with you because no one could do it quite like you, or a time you sat on the couch eating popcorn instead of going to the gym. Any instance where your yes could have been a no or vice a versa. Now, turn the situation around and visualize what you imagine would happen if you made the opposite choice and it brought you a sense of relief. 

Practice setting healthy boundaries by asking for additional time to consider your yes or no answer (when appropriate), turning the situation around, and polishing up your inner compass as methods leading to a healthy and less stressful life.