Just Say No: Don’t be Pressured into Overdoing it around the Holidays

The holiday season is many things: Busy, enjoyable, frustrating, expensive, memorable and, above all, fast-paced. You have to prioritize, choose your strategy and stick to it in order to not overdo it. So how do you say “no” without hurting feelings, and how do you politely refuse a task that’s asked of you by a family member, friend or co-worker? 

Here are some simple strategies to help you manage your life and make the holidays relatively stress-free.


What is most important to you or your family? Do you have holiday traditions, places you feel you have to go and things you really want to do? Start keeping a big calendar on the wall and mark it with commitments and appointments that take precedence. Then pencil in time for holiday shopping, baking and, most importantly, down time. See how things look, week to week, to get a better sense of any extra commitments you do or do not have time to take on. 

Don’t let others run your life

Don’t fall for the “guilt trips” when others try to force you to do something you don’t want to do. You don’t have to have the entire family over for a big dinner if that’s too much for you. You don’t have to be in charge of organizing special events at the workplace or in your home if you don’t have the time or energy. Sometimes, gathering at a neutral place for a pleasant dinner out – such as a reasonably-priced restaurant or buffet – can take a lot of the pressure off you and keep things light, especially since a family dynamic is seldom perfect.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Making decisions on the spur of the moment can be disastrous in the long run. When someone suggests, asks, or demands you to take on an extra task or responsibility, tell them you will think about it and get back to them in a given time frame. This gives you a chance to see if you can work it into your schedule. See if you can delegate some of the responsibility (e.g. set-up and clean-up) before making a firm commitment. 

Set healthy boundaries

Do not agree to do something that will compromise your integrity or personal ethics. You are the one who ultimately determines how others treat you. Know your limits, recognize your strengths, become familiar with your comfort levels and stick by them. Let others know when you feel you have been disrespected or if you feel that they have crossed the line. Some folks don’t realize the repercussions of their speech and actions and a gentle, firm reminder can act as a wake-up call.

Your feelings matter

Many times we put others’ needs before our own. This is traditional thinking, but it can cause a person to get exhausted, feel unappreciated, and can even lead to health issues. Take time for yourself wheny ou need it.

Learn how to say no

Saying “no” is not a selfish act: It is a means of self-preservation and a way of protecting your own needs. Learning to say no can feel selfish when you first start doing it, but eventually people will realize that you aren’t willing to please others at your own expense, and that you know that you have the right to agree to disagree. Be kind, but make this a habit.

Acknowledge your feelings

Sometimes it is impossible to be cheery in public during the holiday season. Tell others if you don’t feel like getting together when you are grieving or if it’s too much for you. Perhaps a casual coffee with one friend would be preferable to the stress of putting on a happy face in front of a crowd. If crowds do make you uncomfortable or if you are an introvert, don’t feel pressured to get together with the gang for a celebration. It’s okay to say no when a situation makes you feel stressed. It doesn’t mean you don’t care or that you are unfriendly.

Keep a budget and stick to it

Nothing is more overwhelming than tying to donate to every cause that approaches you and participate in every event to which you are invited. Putting your small change in a jar at a local grocery store is one thing, but organizations (and friends and family) can be very insistent during the holiday season. It’s okay to tell them that you are on a budget and can’t afford it. It’s also good to mention that you may be willing to donate or participate another time, at your convenience, when you may find it more affordable.