Saying Yes and Saying No During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • author name Meagan Howell-Brogan, LCSW
Couple walking together in the winter during COVID-19.

Do you feel like the pandemic has changed the way you feel about social obligations, about how busy you like to be, and how much downtime you need? We've all been forced to slow down our pace, go to fewer places, and see far fewer people than we used to. It's interesting to reflect on what this reveals about what we really need, and who we really are.

What Happens with Less Human Contact

Sometimes inertia sets in. We become used to the control we exert over our tiny spaces, the predictable world of our phones, and begin to feel some anxiety about seeing actual humans out in the actual world. That's understandable; many of us are out of social practice and navigating varied ideas about what is acceptable social distancing behavior right now can be stressful. 

Consider Safe Opportunities for Interaction

That said, try saying YES anyway when a safe opportunity comes up. If you haven't seen anyone in a while, say yes. If you are feeling lonely, say yes. If you're a little nervous about it, that's okay. Say yes. We need human contact!

But what if that invitation stirs up some real aversion? What if someone asks you to show up for a zoom meeting or give them a ride to Target and you just feel a big UGH inside? Maybe it doesn't feel pandemic-safe, or you are already so busy with other things, or you simply don't want to. 

In that case, it's okay to say NO!

When No Is the Best Option

It's actually great to say no in order to take care of yourself, to protect yourself from resenting other people, and to model honesty and direct communication with others. It's hard to do, but it's worth it. 

You can say, "I'm really sorry to disappoint you, and I hope you can find another way. But I don't feel comfortable giving rides during the pandemic."

Or "I know you really want me to join, but I feel like I have enough on my plate. It sounds great, it's just not for me."

It may stir up guilt to disappoint someone else, but we can tolerate a bit of guilt in order to avoid being silently angry at someone because we feel unable to decline their invitation, and wind up doing something we really don't want to be doing. That kind of anger feels awful inside; it corrodes relationships. Try taking a few deep breaths, acknowledging your guilty feelings, and reminding yourself of why you said no.

The more you set boundaries, the easier it becomes. And when we do go back to 'normal' life, and the obligations start to pile up even higher simply because they can, you'll be in fighting form to say no when you need to and protect time for YOU.

author name

Meagan Howell-Brogan, LCSW

Meagan Howell-Brogan, LCSW is a licensed clinical counselor at Lancaster General Health at Franklin & Marshall College Student Wellness Center. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research and employs mindfulness, self-compassion, AEDP and CBT influenced therapy with her undergraduate student-clients. Meagan is a lover of books, friends, music, yoga, food, spontaneous social gatherings, hikes, excellent conversation, and her family.

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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