For some people, the holidays are a time for friends, family, and relaxation, but for many, even most, the pressure to get everything done and be merry is just too much. Bickering relatives, end-of-year office demands, feuding friends and over-stimulated children add their own strong tugs on your sanity, patience and already overflowing To-Do list. It’s enough to make anyone want to hibernate until spring.
There is an easy way to sidestep holiday stress and feel rested and joyous as you begin the New Year. The solution lies in one simple word—“no.” It eliminates the need to push yourself to the max or to spend the holidays somewhere other than where you want to be. As you become more aware of your dwindling time and resources, refusing requests can seem an impossible task.
The tips below will ease the awkwardness and difficulty of refusing others and help you cope with the season’s demands (and way beyond). With these in mind, you’ll able to say “no” and mean it, and along the way you’ll find your “holiday blues” melting away.
10 Tips for a Calmer Holiday Season
1. When approached with a request, pause.
Briefly analyze what is really being asked of you. Make sure you fully understand the magnitude of the commitment before you blurt out “Yes…I’ll organize the bake sale, collect money for the holiday party, make the costumes for the school play, etc. etc. etc.” By realizing that you always have a choice in what you decide to say “yes” or “no” to you’ll be able to eliminate uncontrollable “yeses.”
2. Allow other people in your life to take control.
You don’t have to do everything alone. Eliminating the need to “run” things to be sure they turn out the way you like them relieves much of the pressure you put on yourself. Maybe it’s actually true that some things won’t turn out as well as if you did them yourself, but they will be done, and you won’t be the one stressing and frantic about them.
3. Protect your time.
If you decide to say “yes” to something, whether it is helping a friend shop for gifts or decorating for a party, be very specific about the amount of time you have to devote to the task. Learn to be protective of your time—it’s a valuable commodity that you have in limited supply. When you say “yes” continually to others, you say “no” to yourself and relegate yourself to second position, fourth, or even last. There is nothing wrong with taking time for you during the holiday season.
4. Don’t be wishy-washy.
Specifically: Don’t be wishy-washy about decisions that involve changes to expected rituals. Stand strong when changing a tradition. People are not mind readers. No one knows that you object unless you say so. There is nothing wrong with wanting to eat Christmas dinner at another family member’s house this year instead of yours or declining to host the annual New Year’s Day party. Bowing out and breaking a long standing tradition will force someone else to take over, if he or she feels strongly about its preservation. If not, then so be it…you’re no longer responsible.
5. Don’t over-explain.
How you decide to celebrate a holiday needs no explanation. You can say “no” to parties, postpone your answer to an invitation, or say you’re staying in. You are entitled to your preferences and to act on them.
6. Try repeating an affirmation to help you stick to your decisions.
Repeat something like “I will not give in, I will not give in,” to remind yourself that you deserve to be in control of your time and to dispense it as you wish. When people take advantage of you, the most serious repercussion is the irritation you feel with yourself for making yourself available to others 24/7. By creating an affirmation, you are giving yourself the verbal support you need to stick to your “no.”
7. Actions — and tone — speak louder than words.
Your tone of voice and body language are far more influential in sending your “no” message than the actual words. The word “no” said politely is enough to convey your message. The fewer excuses you make, the stronger the message. Just remember to say “no” with conviction. Look the person in the eye to let him or her know that you mean it and appeals and pressure are useless.
8. Reduce your holiday stress by altering a request to make it, or part of it, more manageable.
If a person asks you for help decorating because you have a knack for it, and you want to help, but you don’t want to spend your entire day there; don’t be afraid to tell them you will get them started on the project and they can finish on their own. Most people will be appreciative for any help you are willing to provide.
9. Don’t fret over the consequences of your “no.”
If you’ve handled the situation calmly, the backlash will be absent or insignificant. Remember: in general, people don’t think about you as much as you worry about what they think. While you’re feeling guilty, they are busy finding someone else to do the job.
10. You can say “no” and still remain a caring, committed person.
Most people are understanding and forgiving, especially during the holidays. And, if they’re not, do you really want them in your life? Remind yourself daily that “no” is liberating, and to say it is your right.
As the holidays approach, you have other rights you will want to exercise such as making your feelings and desires known, establishing and guarding your boundaries, and keeping your needs for rest, exercise, and balanced meals in the forefront of all you do… and don’t do.