De-stressing with Bente (#11)

broken heart

Learning to relax again: how do you manage to do that? Bente (23) is a freelance journalist and works as an online editor at Flow. Having experienced a near-burn-out, she’s finding her way to a life with less stress. And every Friday, she takes us with her on her journey to get there.

Do I want to do an extra assignment? Of course. Fancy travelling for two hours to see an old acquaintance? No problem. Can I look after the neighbor’s dog? With pleasure. I am a champion at saying ‘yes’. The advantage of this is that I don’t have to worry about any confrontations, and people generally like me. But it also has a disadvantage. Had I said ‘no’ a little more often, I would not be sitting in the waiting room of my breathing therapist every Wednesday morning.

“You must learn to say no,” she suggests after I finish my relaxation exercise on the red exercise mat. We sit at her desk and discuss my progress. “You are a pleaser,” she continues. “Which is good, but only if in moderation. If you go too far down that path, you live for others and not for yourself.”


I can see what she means. Even though I do think of myself often enough, I haven’t said ‘no’ to the things I don’t like often enough recently. It’s because I don’t want to have to deal with any conflicts, or because I don’t want the other person to think I’m stupid. If I want to be stronger, it’s time to stand up for myself. But that’s easier said than done. “I’m scared I’m going to feel guilty,” I confess.

The therapist looks at me for a moment before she answers: “Feeling guilty is good. It means you have chosen yourself above anything else, and that’s okay.”

“And what if people are disappointed?” I respond.

“They will always be that. A three-year-old toddler shrieks to high heaven if it doesn’t get ice cream. Deep down, us adults are still just like that toddler. We may not stamp our feet, but our primary reaction is anger or disappointment. It is up to you to not give in to that.”

We talk for a moment about the subject and then it suddenly goes quiet. I see my therapist look away from her notebook (which is well and truly full of notes) and toward the red exercise mat, which still has the pillow she put under my head fifteen minutes ago on it. Then she looks at me. “You don’t like that pillow at all—I have that written down here. So, why didn’t you just say something?” I think we all know the answer to that. Next time, I’ll say ‘no’ to the pillow. And everything else I don’t like. Promise.

  • Bente’s other blogs can be found here.

Photography ©Henry Be/Unsplash