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Say Goodbye to Survival Mode Challenge: Day 1


Welcome to the 7-Day Say Goodbye to Survival Mode Challenge. Each day this week, I’ll be blogging through the 7-Day Challenge. If you’ve not signed up yet, enter your name and email in the orange sign-up box at the top of the page here and you’ll get the daily emails and challenge in your inbox.

Just Say No

Today’s topic is a hard one. And it’s one that almost wrecked my health, marriage, and home.

It’s about that little word “no”.

Confession time: I want people to like me. I want people to think I have it together. I don’t like being viewed as the girl who is a mess, is always behind, and can’t ever seem to get with the program.

So for years, I hid my messes and struggles. I pretended I was WonderWoman. And I said yes. A lot.

Sure, I’ll help you with that project.

Sure, I’ll join your group.

Sure, I’ll volunteer for that.

Sure, I’ll meet with you.

Sure, I’ll babysit for you.

And on and on it went. Until I couldn’t keep going on any longer because I was completely exhausted, utterly maxed out, and totally overwhelmed.

What I didn’t seem to realize was that when I was saying yes to one thing, I was in essence saying no to something else. That something else was often sleep, my health, my marriage, my kids, and my sanity.

As I chronicle in my new book, it took me hitting rock bottom before I had the wake-up call that changed my life and gave me the courage to admit I couldn’t do it all. As a result, I started saying no. A lot.

At first, it was so hard for me. But I quickly realized that the world wouldn’t fall apart if I didn’t say yes to everything. Plus, I’ve found I have so much more breathing room and peace in my life as a result of saying no. This gave me more resolve to continue to say no!

How would it feel for you to say no more often? To set boundaries and give yourself much-needed breathing room? Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Count the Costs.

Before committing to anything, count the costs. What are you going to have to give up in order to do this thing or attend this event or write this post or participate in this series? Is it worth what you’re giving up? If you’re not 100% sure that it is, then say “no.”

2. Give Yourself Grace.

Don’t beat yourself up over what you’re not doing. Don’t compare yourself to other seeming “supermoms.” Don’t stress over what’s being left undone.

Stick with the basics and lower your expectations. Maybe it’s not the time for tackling big projects, volunteering for ministry opportunities, or doing detailed, in-depth cleaning. If your family has clean laundry and food in their bellies, most of the other stuff can wait.

3. Practice Saying No.

Get in the habit of saying no more often than you say yes. Stop letting people manipulate you into a miserable existence. Stop doing things just because you feel obligated or because you’re afraid of what people might think of you if you don’t do them.

Focus on your list of priorities. If saying no to something means your attention is drawn to what matters most—trust me, it’s a good thing.

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

{My to-do list for today.}

Today’s Challenge

Sit down somewhere quiet and compose a to-do list for tomorrow. Include everything on your plate, from the moment you wake up until you go to bed. When you’re finished, force yourself to immediately eliminate three items from your list. Just cross them out.

This is not a mind trick to make you feel more productive than you really are. Instead, it’s a way to help you start learning to evaluate your activities and commitments. Choose three items and get rid of them. Let them go—no justification, no guilt.

Today’s Project

Leave a comment telling me what three things you’re eliminating from your to-do list today. I can’t wait to hear — and I hope that this frees up some breathing room in your day!

My 3 things I’m saying no to today:

1) Time-consuming dinner prep. I’m making a really simple dinner tonight — hamburgers, steamed veggies, and fruit.

2) Leaving the house. After a busy weekend, we’re staying home all day today. We find it’s so good to stay home all day at least a few days each week. And while I have some errands I was thinking of doing this afternoon, I’m going to bump them to later this week to give some breathing room for today.

3) Being on the computer after 6 p.m. I’ve been doing my best to stay off the computer in the evenings and keeping that reserved for family time, knitting, and reading. I’m committing to shut the computer off by 6 p.m. tonight — and if I have more work to do, I can save it for tomorrow.

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  • I really liked #2 – give yourself grace. That’s sometimes the hardest part for me. I can see all the things I *could* be doing, but in reality, they aren’t the BEST things I can do right now. I’m learning there are truly seasons for everything. What I can’t do right now (like host a mom’s group) doesn’t mean I won’t ever be able to do it. I’m in a season (of two very little children). So keeping my priorities straight and learning to say no really helps.

    Three things I’m saying no to today:
    1) a totally clean house (MIL is coming today)
    2) an elaborate, time consuming dinner (I stole that from you 😉 )
    3) Facebook – I just need to let it go today!

  • Kara says:

    My three things:

    1) Cleaning–I’m off all this week…the dust will still be here tomorrow, it’s okay if I catch up on other things since we were out of town all last week
    2) elaborate dinner–decided to make a crock pot meal instead!
    3) starting school preparations–I go back next week and need to start making power points. Will start tomorrow instead!

    Today is a paperwork, filing, organizing kind of day…wouldn’t want to ruin my flow!

    • My 3 Things:
      1. Leaving the house. It’s frigid and I’m doing a 14 Day No Spend Challenge. Not only is it safer to stay in the warmth, I can make sure that I don’t spend by staying home and enjoying the day with my family.
      2. Working all day cleaning the house. 2 of the kids are home so it’s a great day to play.
      3. Phone calls. They can wait a day or two.

  • Heather says:

    My three things are
    1. Going out to do a dozen chores. This is the last day of break for my kids. We are playing board games instead.
    2. Mopping. I have teenagers that could earn some extra chore money.
    3. Dusting can wait. It will be there tomorrow.

    I love the grace point. I started practicing it last year with everything and I have been more happy but I still have a hard time with me. So this is where I treat me as I would treat others.

  • Michelle says:

    My husband just brought this up to me the other day and now I am reading it here. He asked if I can try and get everything done (cooking, cleaning, blogging etc) by 6pm. He likes to come home and just spend time with the family watching TV etc.

    Even though I have a schedule I try to go by, I usually find myself getting into a blog post or still doing laundry at 8 pm. The kids (10-12 yrs old) are usually doing their own thing in their rooms.

    I guess it is meant for me to slow down a bit and just enjoy family time 🙂 Thanks!!

    • Crystal says:

      I’ve found that when I know I have to shut it off at 6 p.m., it forces me to prioritize and use my time online better than when I think, “Oh, I’ll just finish that up after the kids are in bed tonight.”

      This might not work for all families, but it’s working really well for our family at this season of life.

  • Erin says:

    1. Exercising-was going to run this morning, but I have already worked out for 6 days and I needed some extra sleep!
    2. Going to the grocery store-it is freezing here and I don’t desperately need the items on my list.
    3. Cleaning out closets-my kids are home due to the weather and it can wait for another day.

    I like the point about Giving yourself Grace. I’ve gotten better of the past several years about saying no, but it is hard for me not to beat myself up about getting everything done. I truly need to work on lowering my expectations.

  • Sasha says:

    1. I went ahead and let a church committee know today that I won’t be help plan an upcoming event due to my work demands.

    2. Keeping off facebook completely after I pick the kids up from school today- my afternoon and evening will be for family time.

    3. Put off errands until tomorrow. It’s bitter cold here and the things I need to do can wait.

  • Maureen says:

    This is good advice, but your list sounds like you made some stuff up in order to cross it off your list. Who puts “time consuming dinner prep” as something they want to do? Doesn’t everyone want to spend less time making dinner?

    • Crystal says:

      You are so right that I usually don’t put “Make a time consuming dinner” on my list. 🙂 However, to clarify, I was thinking of making a more time consuming dinner tonight, but decided to pare down to a simple dinner. 🙂

      • Katie says:

        I love making a time consuming dinner!! 🙂 It’s not fun or relaxing if you don’t have time to let the bread rise, etc. But, cooking a wholesome meal with some music playing, kids hanging out together, and husband coming home to a yummy smelling house is one of my favorite things in this world! So many other nights we have to rush because the kids’ activities all happen at about 5ish and run to about 8 – so a night at home with a time consuming din din sounds great!

    • Valerie says:

      Maureen, Maybe there’s some truth in what you say but in my family, I have the goal (for health, weight loss and less mommy guilt) to cut the processed easy junk out quite a bit from my family and so therefore would want a more home cooked usually often more time consuming dinner. Sometimes you don’t know what struggles others may be going through that perhaps just isn’t one for you. 🙂

  • Alicia Greene says:

    1. I am putting my phone down at 7. No facebook/instagram or any social media. I need and want to spend time with my husband. Our relationship needs us time.
    2. Picking up the kids toys, one day of no clean is well deserved after two weeks of school vacation.
    3. Give the dog a bath, it can wait one more day.

  • Lana says:

    As an ‘older’ woman’, whenever I see another woman who appears to have everything together, I am suspicious. After raising five children and homeschooling for 23 years I can tell you that you cannot do it, at least for not very long. I have perhaps gotten too much into the habit of cutting myself some slack!

  • Katie says:

    1. Driving on the scary black ice predicted tonight
    2. Running to the store to pick up brown rice and cabbage (using quinoa tonight and getting the cabbage tomorrow.)
    3. Returning my library DVDs

    I think this will leave time to start up my read alouds, prepare a wholesome meal for my family, and line the cabinet with shelf paper under my sink.

  • Bonnie Hobson says:

    I have learned so much from you the last few years, and I am determined to be more goal oriented. I said no to a monthly obligation last month. It was hard to do, and I had a lot of guilt, but now I feel so free!! I have avoided making lists…they make you accountable!! But, I am giving it a try. Beginning today. Thank you for the encouragement!

  • Amanda E says:

    Crystal, I have a question that may not be appropriate for this… but I need to ask!

    I know that you homeschool, so do I. I am wondering how you stay online throughout the day and school the children?? I would love to be able to build my blog and work online while schooling. How have you made this possible? Do you set time limits for yourself and pop off and on throughout the day?

    I also want my time in the evening to be spent with family and doing other wonderful things! I have been doing that… but I also feel like I am not getting enough done.

    Thank you!

    • Andrea says:

      Can you pay a mother’s helper? Crystal has several employees.

    • Crystal says:

      Great question and one that I am HAPPY to answer since it’s really important to me that no one thinks I do it all! 🙂

      You can see details on my team here:
      I’m so grateful for them as I couldn’t do what I do without them.

      I get up early and usually get in 2-3 hours’ worth of computer work before our homeschool time. In that timeframe, I schedule quite a few posts/Facebook posts, etc. to run while I’m homeschooling. And then I “hand off” the blog to my team to oversee while I’m homeschooling (They moderate comments, post deals, remove/update deals, moderate Facebook comments, etc. — anything you see posted here or on Facebook as “MSM Team” is my team, not me.). I sometimes pop on to check email or comments if I have a spare minute here or there during homeschool time, but for the most part, I’m offline during the middle of the day.

      And then I hope back on for a few more hours’ worth of work in the afternoon/before dinner. I usually schedule the evening posts/Facebook posts then so that I can be offline most evenings, too.

      I love the ability with WordPress and Facebook to schedule posts in advance so that my blog still runs when I’m offline. If you can find a few blocks of time during the week to write posts/schedule them, you can work ahead so that you can be offline while you’re homeschooling.

      • Amanda E says:

        This does help a lot! I wonder, did people help you before you were able to pay them??? Or did you start small with their pay?

        Thank you for the time you take to answer and comment!

        • Crystal says:

          The income has grown as the business workload has grown, so that’s been a huge blessing in allowing us to continue to grow and bring on more people.

          I started very small in hiring help… first, it was a mother’s helper for a few hours per week and a person to help me with tech stuff and blog graphics for a few hours per week. As the business grew, I’ve slowly brought on more people or increased the hours of those who are already working for me.

  • Jennifer says:

    It’s like you can’t say “yes” to the things that matter, without also saying no to things that aren’t priority. So a no to something is a yes to something else!

  • Kristin says:

    I learned to say “no” a while ago when I was commuting 45 minutes each way for work and sometimes had to work until 8p.m. or later. I had a strict rule that I did not make commitments for more than two nights in a week, including working late. My standard line to say no is: “I have another commitment that night/day/whenever.” That other commitment is to my sanity and family life.

    I said no to my book group for this month, which is really saying no to three things at once: getting the book, making time to read it, and going to the meeting. Doing so will make my life a lot saner this month. Perhaps I will rejoin them next month.

  • I love that you are encouraging moms to say no. Just reading that in your new book was so refreshing…it’s like I never even considered saying no before because I thought I had to be that likable person who always helps out, plus sometimes I just think I have to be involved so that I know what’s going on (yes, I’m nosy!) with everything and everyone.

    Three things I’m giving up today:

    1. Taking down the Christmas decorations. I usually have them all down by now, but since it was a short season this year, I’m leaving them up to enjoy a bit longer. I’m not going to stress over it.

    2. Staying off Facebook. I wasn’t on FB as much the past few weeks because we had company staying with us, and I found that I felt a lot happier and not so anxious to find out what was going on with everyone.

    3. Tonight’s PTA meeting. I’m going to stay home with my husband and kids and enjoy them instead of a boring meeting.

    Thanks Crystal!

  • Suzanne says:

    Three for today:
    1. Leaving the house. Last night I told my daughter that she could drive the car to school (a real treat since we are a one car family!) This forces me to stay home and work on my eBay business.
    2.Time-consuming dinner prep (yep, stole this one from you!) I was planning to do a more elaborate dinner, but decided to do crockpot instead (thanks, Kara! I actually stopped writing this, got up and did it..dinner’s taken care of!!)
    3. Cleaning. This weekend we took down Christmas decorations, cleaned part of the basement, cleaned and rearranged my office…whew! When we clean like this I always feel like I need to keep going until the whole house has been cleaned and re-organized. My bedroom closet and bathroom cupboards can wait for another day. I just added them to my monthly goals list 🙂

  • Wow, what a great idea. However I really struggled with the Homework portion. I made my list and just stared at it, unable to choose anything to cross off. In fact I thought about adding things to my list just so I could cross them off. But that would be cheating. So I finally got bold and crossed off some very important things for tomorrow.

    Grocery Shopping- Why drag my almost two year old to the store when I can send my Husband my list and have him swing in and out on his way home?
    Unload Groceries- If I do this tonight it won’t need to be done tomorrow.
    Start a blog post scheduled to go up Thursday- I’m already planning to work on another post tomorrow why add more on my plate than I have to?

    What a great exercise! I can’t wait to participate in the rest of the challenge! Thanks Crystal.

    • Crystal says:

      This exercise has been SO helpful to me… it helps me to step back and really ask myself, “Do I have to do that today?” “Do I need to do that at all?”

      And I just bumped a blog post off my list, too… I already have one I was writing this afternoon and you inspired me to save the other one for another day this week. Thanks! 🙂

  • Great points Crystal. I absolutely love the idea of making a t0-do list and then scratching off stuff. Especially since I’m really good adding more than I can usually handle.
    Going to make my list now. Help I don’t want to scratch anything. I have issues. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Bonny says:

    I am not going to worry about laundry, I also will turn the computer off by 6 and spend time with my kids, and I will not worry about getting any dishes done in the evening.

  • Lety says:

    Thank you, Crystal! Your post made me realize I have been pressuring myself these last few days. Late last year I decided to start a blog. And while I have a bit of content written and ready to post, I felt I needed to have more.

    That is the first thing crossed off today. No blog writing. I have enough for now.

    The other thing I have crossed off my list is planning out my goals. I have identified these and have developed them enough to the point of being able to work on them the next few weeks. Why fret over listing what I need to do next month?

    Finally, I too changed my dinner menu 🙂 I wanted to make my first crock pot meal today. It would be perfect for -15 weather! I didn’t realize, however, that I don’t have what I need to make a specific recipe. I decided to make something else for dinner. Why risk going out in this weather just so I can say I did everything on my to-do list?

    Thanks again!! 😉


    Here’s my post about what I’m saying no to.

    1. Cleaning my bedroom
    2. Taking down the Christmas tree
    3. Baking bread

    • Crystal says:

      Go you! I’m so glad you’re participating!

      And I loved this part of your post: “This is a good exercise to get in the habit of doing because for some reason I seem to always expect more out of myself than I can accomplish in a day. It’s good to simplify!”

      YES! I so know this feeling!

  • Jenny says:

    3 things I’m letting go of today…

    1) a date with girlfriends (the roads will be icy and although I very much wanted to get together, its not worth my safety or sanity this evening)
    2) a perfect diet (I’m cutting back on unhealthy foods but its ok if due to the weather I can’t go shopping and have all the most perfect meal choices today)
    3) a magazine subscription- the renewal process is actually daunting and I’ve decided I don’t really need it that badly because I already receive plenty of magazines!

  • Debbie says:

    Vacuuming, loading and unloading the dishwasher, and dusting are ones I don’t like to do, so I could just not do them tomorrow!

  • Meredith says:

    This was actually difficult as tomorrow is an easy day for me. My husband is sick and I’m not so I was just going to stay at home and do housework/relax with him while my daughter is at school. However, I did find three to cross off!

    1. Do both of my goals for Swagbucks. I have been doing the larger one but I’m just going to do the smaller one tomorrow (click through videos on mute) while my husband and I watch a movie!

    2. Clean as much of the laundry as possible. I am just going to do a load of my husbands “contaminated” clothes.

    3. Clean as much as possible throughout the house. I am just going to wipe up downstairs/vacuum the main areas that need it and worry about it later.

  • Danielle says:

    Love this idea of giving ourselves grace and saying no to things. Seems like it’s something we could all do more of on a regular basis. Today I will say no to:
    1. Folding the laundry.
    2. Moping the floors.
    3. Working on my blog any more tonight.

    Instead I will focus on spending time with my two little girls and getting a hour meal on the table for dinner.

  • Joyce says:

    We like to stay home a couple of days a week. It brings sanity to our week for sure. I know it’s not for everyone since I have a friend who texts to get together every single day.

    I am saying no to writing a newsletter that I can delegate out.
    I am saying no to checking Twitter this whole week.
    I am saying no to going online after the kids are in bed.

    Okay, I’m feeling good about this already.

  • Amy says:

    1. Not make dinner
    We survived on leftovers.
    2. Laundry- it will be there tomorrow
    3. Finish putting away holiday decorations- again they will be there tomorrow

  • Joyce Sharpe says:

    This weekend I determined that I am worn out as a spouse caregiver for the last 2 months at home and the previous 8 months at hospital, skilled nuring facilities, etc. I cannot be the lone soldier. A dear friend has helped me at least 3 days a week or more, but I am at the point all I want to do is rest, my temper is short and so is his. I will have to find a way to pay for an additional caregiver whatever it takes or else I too will end up in the hospital.

    • Bonnie says:

      You may have local resources than can help you with caregiving. If you are in the right age group, your senior center and elder services can be terrific help. In any case, your local visiting nurse can provide a housekeeper, or a nurse’s aid to help with things like showers at a cost that may be more reasonable than you think. Also, consider a respite visit at your local nursing home. I hope you can get some help and get a break for yourself. It is NOT easy taking care of someone especially on your own.

  • Wow, this came at the perfect time for me.

    1) Just today I already said no to volunteering for a committee for next year…one that I’ve done for the past several years and I’m burned out and over it already. I’m so over it I need a new word for “over it”. I’ve been SO scared of saying “no” because I don’t want to disappoint people or my kids (I want to be a “good” involved mom). I’m perfectly capable of doing the work, but just can’t mentally handle it anymore, and it’s hard for others to see that when I hold it all in.

    2) I’m saying “NO” to the guilt associated with #1. It keeps creeping up on me, and I have to keep squashing it down. This is getting easier as the day goes on.

    3) I didn’t bake pumpkin bread for my neighbor today like I said I would. I just ran out of steam. I can do it tomorrow though. 🙂

  • LaShera says:

    1. Today was a teacher “work day” at school. It was filled with meetings and planning a new intervention program. I had a huge list of things I needed/wanted to do in my classroom. I let it go. I decided I could break those tasks into smaller chunks and eventually get them finished without stressing myself out doing it ALL in one day.
    2. The Confident Mom Planning chart is now prominently displayed on my fridge. I started using it last week and I love it. However, I learned quickly to give myself grace when I didn’t check something off for the day. It’s okay to bump something to the next day or Saturday when there’s more room in the schedule.
    3. Technology…reading the news on-line, checking Facebook, and reading through personal emails. The world can wait! My goal this year is to say “yes” to family and “no” to things that are fleeting.

  • Jennifer McDaniel says:

    I’m trying to stress less. I hope this will help.

    3 Things I’m saying no to:

    1. Cleaning up my craft room
    2. Start on my DIY Valentines decor
    3. Top to Bottom Kitchen Cleaning it will be there on Wednesday

  • Nicole says:

    I crossed off Mopping, my sister lives with us and can do that! Joyful Post it was on the list twice oops. And Giveaway post because I don’t plan on starting it till later in the week anyways and will have more time!

  • Your post was challenging to me. I struggle with feeling like I *should* be doing more than I am. I’m sure part of it is a comparison thing and a guilt thing. Yes, I need to give myself grace. Thanks.

    My 3 things I’ve crossed off:
    1. Grocery store stop – I can either wait another day or ask my hubby to pick up a few things.
    2. Clean the bathrooms – Yikes!
    3. Make a new chore schedule

  • Julie says:

    I am saying no to:

    1. Facebook–If I need to read something I can “snack” on Scripture. I’ve been trying to implement this thought process into my life. What a great time!
    2. List some items on Craigslist–We’re covered with a foot of snow. Who’s really going to come before the weekend anyway? 🙂
    3. Clean out my closet-It will still be there tomorrow.

    I have been feeling lately that I need to say no to many household/school things right now and really focus on my children. They need my undivided attention in some character training right now, especially my 5, 4, and 2 year olds. This will definitely be an area I work on all year long.

  • Kerri says:

    Today, I am off work so my saying no centers around saying no to home items.

    1. Reconciling our December finances. I actually really enjoy number crunching, but there are other more important things to do today, so this can wait.

    2. Pressuring myself to finish my current knitting project. If I have time to to work on it, I will. But I have let go of the pressure of finishing today.

    3. Starting a new Scripture memory project. I will review the old one and start a new one later this week.

  • Carrie says:

    1. I skipped kid baths. They aren’t going outside and school was canceled for Tuesday.
    2. I didn’t get on the phone or internet. Of course my phone line was down, so this was kind of out of my control anyways.
    3. I didn’t worry about getting all the laundry done. It will be there tomorrow.

    But I did go to bed earlier. I did work on my knitting. I did more reading than usual. : )

  • Amy H. says:

    My things I gave up doing today!
    1. Starting more laundry, I need to catch up on what I have done so far.
    2. Make my salads in a jar for lunches. I can make them this weekend for next week.
    3. Drive out of my way for electric heat tape. We need it but my Husband is out of town. Will buy it when he comes back

  • Julie Turner says:

    I’m just now catching up on this challenge, but yesterday I can say I gave up:
    1. Making an elaborate dinner-this is hard for me! But so worth it.
    2. Checking the mail-we have to drive to our apt mailbox-too cold yesterday!
    3. Skipped going to the gym. Needed a night of rest after a busier-than-usual Sunday…

    Thanks for this!! Its nice to be reminded to give myself grace.

  • Sarah says:

    I’m really enjoying the call tonight. I hope it will be available so I can relisten to it again and again. I am always so worried that people or even my husband will think I am lazy if I don’t do everything. Something in this call and this post is clicking with me so I can adjust and reevaluate what my priorities are.

  • Meredith says:

    My three things I said no to today:
    1) I worked as a nurse and a mom today, so I decided to give up any time spent on my side job in direct sales.
    2) I chose to not follow my 0415 wake-up call. Gave myself some extra sleep time. I really LOVE good sleep! AND I still clocked in on time!
    3) I said no to reading during valuable family time. I fell asleep on the couch instead, while watching the news with the hubby. I must have needed it. Did I mention that I really love good sleep? 😀

  • Elizabeth says:

    I am grateful for this article. By nature, I am empathic, love to help, and oh no,… people pleasing…. been working on those boundaries. When I was a stay-at-home Mom recently, I said “yes” to so many things I felt too exhausted to do, because working mom-relatives would imply or say things like, if I were a staying home, I’d have time to do a, b, and c and open my own business, etc. and what are you doing? Can you watch my kids b/c I am too tired from work when I get home…. Anyhow, just started working and yes, it is tiresome, but I am more energized with the type of profession that I do, and I have more energy for my kids b/c they hadn’t drained me aaaaaalllll day. Yes, forgive me for such bitterness from feeling judged that a stay at home mom has the leisure of picking your nose whenever you can. And I admit I was manipulated out of guilt and obligation to take on family members things that standing up for taking care of myself. In short, thank you for this message! God bless you.

  • I think you’ve written this book & series for me! Saying no–this is a message I SO need to hear!! My one word for this year is “boundaries” & I think saying no is the first step!

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