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The first and last time I ever “surfed” I was sixteen, in Hannah, Hawaii. My friend promised me it “wasn’t that hard,” and the 5 foot waves “weren’t that big.” Did I mention I’m from New Jersey?

I had just barely managed to stand up when a wave caught me, and moments later I went “over the falls.” If you’ve never had the pleasure, over the falls means the wave gives you a smackdown: you are thrown off the board and twist underwater like a piece of trash. If you’re lucky, you emerge inelegantly, as I did, with sand and water pouring out of your nose, your bathing suit mostly still on, having been hit in the head only once with your board.

Unlike horseback riding, I did not get back on the surfboard horse. However, I’m grateful for the experience. I will never forget the terror I experienced realizing I had ZERO control, my strength and swimming skills were useless, and I didn’t know what was going to happen. Not only that, I literally couldn’t breathe and I wondered if I would die.

40 million Americans (18%) experience an out of control feeling just like this of overwhelm and powerlessness on a daily basis. It’s called Anxiety. We have the highest diagnosed and medicated rates in the world, and average age of onset is just 11 years old (NIMH). There is a simple solution to the root of much (not all!) of our anxiety: “No, thank you.”

Sometimes we don’t know what adventures we’re getting into, and we get lost in an overwhelm of our own making. At the next invitation, it might feel beyond what we wish or feel capable of doing. That is our opportunity to have Joumorous Clutter-Free Connection, and kindly decline. Protecting ourselves from one too many invitations, newsletters, 🙂 or projects is a double gift to ourselves AND to those asking.

The next time someone asks you to do something that feels like too much, ask yourself: will it make you go over the falls?

You can always say, “No, thank you.”

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