The Caregivers is a unique series focused on the challenges and triumphs of caregiving. These stories have been created through a strategic partnership between AARP and Word In Black.

When we’re on the path toward becoming the greatest versions of ourselves, we’re sure to encounter a few detours. We’ll meet unwitting teachers and face difficult lessons. If we’re successful, we’ll transform our wounds into wisdom to share with future generations. 

There are a handful of important tools to carry with us on our journey. One of them is the word “No.”

Think of the first time you came across the word. A disciplinarian may have said it to you in a classroom or home. You may have seen or heard it on the news in the context of some policy that could affect many people. The word “No” is associated with rejection or denial. 

“No” also is a form of protection. It helps us set healthy boundaries.

You have the power to invite the word into every facet of your life, including:

Your Health Care Needs

The list of disparities in the United States medical system is long. Unfortunately, receiving quality and affordable care is not always the norm. Say “Yes” to seeking support for your mental and physical health needs. This can be researching clinics, support groups, alternative practitioners, and wellness retreats.

Embrace saying “No,” to health providers and treatments that don’t align with your belief system or needs. Embrace saying “No” to habits that no longer serve your health (whether it’s certain foods or ways of thinking about your health). Begin a dialogue within yourself.

Your Relationships

If you’re a lover and a giver, you’ll find yourself in situations that test your boundaries. You may absorb emotions and problems that don’t belong to you. You may even exhaust your energetic resources trying to solve problems that are not yours. 

Say “Yes” to expressing love, being an active listener, and giving within your means. Say “No” to neglecting your basic needs in the process. Say “No” to relationships that disrupt your peace. Say “No” to stagnant thought patterns. 

Some behavioral patterns come from various forms of trauma, some of which have been aggravated by social injustices. If you need support welcoming the word “No” into your life, consider some of these techniquesCaregivers, embrace these self-care resources

Your Career and Finances

This is an area of your life where it may seem intuitive to say “Yes” —  yes to new opportunities. Yes, to income. Yes, to being acknowledged and generously compensated for your talents. “No” has a home in your career and finances, too. Whether you’re fully retired, working part-time, or launching a business, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Am I saying “No” to financial behaviors that could support my growth? Sometimes we learn, choose, or inherit financial behaviors that don’t align with our short- and long-term goals.
  • If you have a habit of loaning money that you either do not have or simply do not want to loan, then ask yourself, “Am I saying “No” enough?”
  • Am I saying “No” to the retirement life that I dream of and/or the fears I have that may be associated with aging? It’s never too late to get started on your goals

Saying “No” can be a privilege in some instances. It implies that we have choices and may be better off than naught if we don’t take them. What’s your experience with the word? Do you say it as much as you’d like to? (Don’t worry. It’s OK if your answer is no.)

Mental well-being is a cornerstone of healthy living. AARP wants to help you get healthier and stay healthy. Visit AARP’s Mental Health Center at for tips, tools and resources that can help you develop healthy habits for mental well-being.