Skip to content

    Health & Balance

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Keep Holiday Stress to a Minimum: Learn to Say No

    Before your holiday stress levels start to rise, learn these 4 simple tactics for saying no to unnecessary obligations.
    By
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    For many of us, the holidays were magical in childhood, carefree times to be savored. But then we grew into hordes of harried adults, falling victim to the season's high expectations. Holiday stress has become as much a tradition as the Christmas ham.

    "People are overcommitted," says Marc D. Skelton, PhD, PsyD, a psychologist in Laguna Niguel, Calif. "Christmas and other holidays around this time are always supposed to be fun, and you're supposed to do a good job in terms of entertaining friends and family."

    Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

    How Giving Love Makes You Feel Loved

    By Gretchen Rubin When our two daughters were little, they'd greet my husband and me with wild enthusiasm whenever we walked in the door, and they often cried miserably when we left. More recently, however, they had sometimes barely looked up from their games or homework or books when we walked in or out. It was a relief, in a way, but also a little sad. And too often, my husband and I didn't give warm greetings or farewells to the girls or to each other, either. I had already made a long-standing...

    Read the How Giving Love Makes You Feel Loved article > >

    In an attempt to live up to the season's tall orders, "people will just run from pillar to post," he says. It's not even "Christmas" anymore, some of his clients lament. It's "Stressmas."

    We also overload ourselves with inherited traditions, even when they no longer fit into our busy lives, says Elaine Rodino, PhD, a psychologist in Santa Monica, Calif. If one's mother "baked a thousand cookies and gave them to everyone she knew," Rodino says, "people feel obligated to follow the same kinds of things."

    But there is a secret to cutting holiday stress: Just say no.

    You don't have to bake all those cookies, Rodino says. "You can start your own traditions."

    And you can learn to say no to lots of other demands, too, including party invitations that don't entice or a whopping gift list that could clean out a mall.

    Holiday Stress-Reduction Tip: Decide What Matters Most

    "The spirit of the holidays is gratitude and giving," says Patti Breitman, co-author of the book How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty.

    Only a Scrooge would dispute that generosity is admirable. "It's very satisfying to offer support to the people we love, help out a neighbor, or do something positive for the community," Breitman writes. But "the conflict arises when we continually agree to things that please everyone but ourselves or when we commit to tasks for which we have no time or desire."

    By saying "yes" to every holiday invitation and demand that comes your way, you could wind up exhausted and possibly broke. Instead, reflect on what you cherish most about the holidays, experts say, whether it's sending greeting cards to maintain relationships, tree trimming, baking, religious observances, seeing family and friends, supporting a charitable cause, or just relaxing.

    When you know your priorities, you can turn down the less important things, Breitman says. "It's easier to say 'no' if you know what you're saying 'yes' to."

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4

    Today on WebMD

    woman in yoga class
    6 health benefits of yoga.
    beautiful girl lying down of grass
    10 relaxation techniques to try.
     
    mature woman with glass of water
    Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
    coffee beans in shape of mug
    Get the facts.
     
    Take your medication
    Slideshow
    Hand appearing to hold the sun
    Article
     
    Hungover man
    Slideshow
    Welcome mat and wellington boots
    Slideshow
     
    Woman worn out on couch
    Article
    Happy and sad faces
    Quiz
     
    Fingertip with string tied in a bow
    Article
    laughing family
    Quiz