Have you noticed how many of us love the holiday season yet at the same time, feel super stressed out? It’s a strange mix. You love the gingerbread cookies, the festive décor, and the cozy nights by the fire, but by the end of the season, you’re stressed, tired, and worn out. You start out festive and excited, hitting a wall mid-December, feeling exhausted and less than jolly. Holiday stress strikes again.
Last year, a week before our annual holiday party, I stood in my kitchen. I could feel the holiday stress creeping up. All the tell-tale signs were there. My brain felt scattered, my chest felt tight, and my to do list kept getting longer. (PS: This is one of the many benefits of practicing mindfulness. You notice subtle shifts in stress as they’re happening.) Realizing I didn’t want to be a ball of stress leading up to the party, I stopped, right then and there. I knew I had to find a way to turn things around, to reduce holiday stress. So I took a breath and asked myself the question I swear by for reducing stress and keeping my sanity.
“What can I say no to?”
In that moment, my brain was trying to convince me that everything was important. That I needed to “yes” to everything. Yes to festive décor, yes to homemade appetizers, and yes to a signature cocktail. The detail lover in me wanted a cookie decorating station, a perfectly curated playlist, and I wanted everyone to have an amazing time. My overachieving self wanted to say “yes” to it all. But I’ve been down that road before. And I know it never leads anywhere good. So we’ve got to choose. We’ve got to be intentional.
As I stood in my kitchen, I asked myself that question. “What can I say no to?” I’m not a great cook, and trying to whip up deliciously homemade anything stresses me out. So I decided to say no to home-cooked food. Not gonna happen. Thankfully, I’ve got a Costco membership and a knack for fabulous tablescapes, so I embraced pre-made appetizers and called it done. I didn’t want to be stuck playing bartender all night, so I said no to a signature cocktail. Pretty sure my friends won’t complain.
By saying no homemade food, I said “yes” to my sanity. By saying “no” a signature spiced cocktail, I said “yes” to a fun playlist and “ye”s to being a part of the party all night. By saying “no” to a few things, I instantly lowered my stress and felt a whole lot better.
If you’re feeling the holiday stress creep up, stop. Take a breath. And ask yourself, “What can I say no to?”
Say no to the family tradition that no one enjoys anymore, but you still feel obligated to do. Say no to the perfectly posed Santa photo, and snap one with the Santa at Home Depot instead. Say no to the stress of gift giving and share an experience instead.
When you say “no” to one thing, you’re saying “yes” to something else. Something more meaningful, something that matters. Your time, attention, and energy, aren’t unlimited. You can’t do it all. And if you try, the holiday stress will take over. You’ll crash and burn. So be intentional with how you spend your energy. This question, “What can I say no to?” isn’t an excuse to avoid. (See why avoidance is such a terrible thing here.) Saying “no” isn’t an excuse to pass on something just because it’s uncomfortable. This question is about being thoughtful with your energy and protective over your resources.
So this season, when you notice the holiday stress starting to show up, stop and ask yourself, “What can I say no to?” Lean in, embrace the change, and watch your stress melt away.
PS: Having trouble being present amidst all the holiday stress? Use this mantra; it’ll help.