Turn down seasonal obligations without feeling guilty.
If you nd it di cult to say no at Christmas, it’s time to factor yourself into the festival of giving
“Can you help out with the Christmas fair?”; “Have you done your Christmas shopping?” For some people, these questions help to stoke their excitement about the impending festive season, but for others, they trigger anxiety, guilt and dread. Between the festivities, annual ‘obligations’, gift-buying and an expectation that we should all be upbeat, we’re often worn out in advance. So let us honour and respect our bandwidth, as well as protecting and nourishing our close relationships – ’tis the season to be… mindful.
If we look at where the bulk of our discomfort springs from, it’s our expectations of ourselves. In our e orts to be a good child/sibling/partner/co-worker/boss/friend, we burn out due to forgetting our needs and trying to make life live up to the picture we’ve painted in our mind.
For example, even if we adore our family, it’s not a given that we want to spend every Christmas with them. Maybe we want to get away, sleep, or simply create some of our own traditions and mix things up a bit. Guilt, however, often pushes our desires aside and we grapple with the discomfort of having ignored our inner voice.
On the ip side, it might be that we expect to have a Brady Bunch-like family that we look forward to seeing, but instead ours specialises in soap opera-style showdowns that induce anxiety and embarrassment. Berating ourselves for not having a Getty Images family leaves us con icted. Part of us wants to run for the hills, but another wants the fantasy of things being di erent ‘this time’.
And maybe we don’t want always to be the friend or colleague that volunteers to host or organise, nor do we want to spend money trying to keep up with The Joneses. Your bandwidth is personal to you, so it doesn’t matter that whoever it is you compare yourself with seems to squeeze in everything (they don’t) – that’s not you. If you don’t express your bandwidth through your choices, others, including people you love, might only become aware of your needs when you’re melting down or distant.
If you are spending yeses as if they’re burning a hole in your pocket, or feeling resentful, small, overwhelmed, guilty for saying no, helpless, powerless, victimised, overloaded and even lonely, these are all clues that you need you more than you need to say yes to others.
The truth is, the people you genuinely love and care about, even if they drive you batty at times, don’t want you spending time with them or agreeing to do things under duress. They don’t want your e orts coming back at them in a tirade of resentment one day. Yes, it does mean that they’re going to be disappointed on occasion when you can’t meet their expectations, but people prefer to know where they stand and you can always o er alternative solutions. “I won’t be able to make it on the 25th, but I’ll come down for a few days on the 28th.” “How about we do Secret Santa this year and set a budget of a tenner?”
Listen to yourself as you consider doing or agreeing to something. If none of your internal chatter is about wanting to do it, it’s a clear sign that you either need to say no or tune in to what you really desire. If you’re saying yes because you’re hoping that ‘this time things will be di erent’, then this is a good time to nally cut yourself some slack by accepting people for who they are. Recognising your feelings paves the way for more honest conversations and interactions. It’s amazing how many things we end up piling ourselves up with in an e ort to try to make things look a certain way.
When we can be present in our lives and show up to our relationships authentically, even if it’s not how we envisioned things should be, we actually have more energy to be, do and have the things that matter to us.