Motherly Collective

The holiday season is here and with it comes the invites, family time and get togethers. How about instead of ending the year ticking off achievements, we opt to end the year slowed down, nourished, rested and ready to start 2023? A vital part of accomplishing that—or just a different kind of holiday season more aligned with your needs—is learning how to say no without an apology or excuse.

Setting boundaries might feel extra challenging during the holidays because family is often involved, the fear of missing out might be present or we feel a general sense of obligation to be “festive.” But all of this is a matter of perception. There is no real obligation here. So instead of being burdened by setting boundaries, create the kind of holiday season you want this year. 

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How to avoid an overwhelming holiday 

1. Prepare 

It’s completely possible to avoid feeling overwhelmed and burned out during the holidays by organizing and preparing. I love to start with creating a vision for myself around the holidays. Ask yourself, how do you want this holiday season to feel for you? Maybe it’s relaxing, nourishing or energizing. We have a lot more power and control than we think we do, and it’s important to recognize we’re always in charge of how we want to feel.

2. Explore your feelings

Exploring all of your feelings—even the uncomfortable ones—will help make your holiday vision a reality. For example, if you feel your gut clench around any particular invitation, explore it! Ask what you might be hesitant of and why the negative reaction. Listen to gut clenches and any other feelings (both physical and emotional) you experience. They’re trying to tell you something. Then explore how you could create a better experience for yourself, perhaps by setting boundaries around time or by simply saying no.

3. Look at saying no as a growth opportunity

A perspective shift is a powerful tool for creating a different holiday season. First, stepping outside of traditional black and white thinking can be helpful. For example, we can still set boundaries and they can be affirming and not combative or controlling.  When you decline an invite or say no, focus on how it feels for you, and worry less about how it feels for the other person.

It’s often the people pleaser in us that is triggered when we need to say no but find it uncomfortable. Explore the beliefs you have around saying no. Ask questions! Will you really disappoint someone by saying no? What do you think will happen if you say no? Identify any mistaken beliefs you may have around saying no and move forward from there. 

How to say no

We’ve discussed ways to prepare for a more aligned holiday season, but how do you actually say no? It’s hard, especially around the holidays. Even though you can say yes to so many of the invitations and opportunities, it doesn’t mean you have to say yes to everything. Here are some tips on how to confidently say no.

1. Try saying “yes, and…” or “yes, but…”

You’re still saying yes (technically), which can help you feel more at ease, but ending with a no. Specific examples might include, “Yes, I would love to do that, but I need to check first. I will get back to you,” or “Yes that sounds lovely, and I’m not able to unfortunately.” Remember you don’t need to give a full reason why you’re saying no. 

2. Say no while simultaneously expressing gratitude

For example, “No, we cannot make it, but I love being invited. Thank you for thinking of us.” 

3. Be honest

For instance, “No, I’m already booked,” or “No thank you, this year I’m really working on sticking to a certain number of events, but I love being invited so let’s look ahead to next year please.” People can be more understanding than you’d think, and you’re most likely not the only one feeling the stress of the holidays.

4. Find a solution that feels right for you

You can also be honest while providing an alternative solution that feels more aligned for you. If attending a crowded holiday party feels overwhelming for you, offer to do a more intimate lunch date instead.

5. Practice being with the power of no

Saying no can be very challenging for some people, so it’s a good opportunity for growth. Sit with those uncomfortable feelings around saying no, and see how much power you hold by expressing your no. 

Even though saying no can feel uncomfortable, there is no better time than now to practice. If you’re looking for a different kind of holiday season this year, you hold the power to make your vision a reality. The practice you acquire through the holidays can serve as a powerful vehicle through which you are able to say no throughout the year.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother's journey is unique. By amplifying each mother's experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you're interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.