Already exhausted by Christmas? Why it's OK to say 'no' this festive season - and how to do it

Time to scale down your Christmas? [Photo: Getty]

“Been so busy today I have barely had time for a wee,” read a Whatsapp message last night. And it’s by no means the only similar message I’ve received this week.

My own festive woes resulted in me lying awake at 3am totting up a mental list of the presents I still had to buy, then trying to work out when I’d buy them considering the Christmas social calendar is jam packed with mulled-wine meet-ups.

I’m not alone in my frazzled, middle of the night wake-ups.

Research from Tesco reveals 6% of us are currently losing sleep over hosting Christmas dinner, with 2% on the verge of cancelling the whole damn thing because of anxiety surrounding it.

So when did Christmas become so frantic?

We seemed to float through the Christmases of past in a haze of chocolate coins, cracker pulling and carefree present opening. But then we grew up into harried adults who, thanks to the weight of high expectations, are forced to fly around for the month of December barely pausing for a mince pie.

As a result we end up feeling way more frazzled than festive and instead of looking forward to the big day we’re just longing for the whole thing to be over.

And we can have a little lie down.

“Whilst Christmas is supposed to be the time for love, laughter and celebrations with those you love and those you love to party with, it can turn into toxic turmoil with a panic of not missing out, the pressure to party loud and hard and these days the selfies to show the world just how organised, cool and popular you are,” says personal development consultant, Kenny Mammarella-D’Cruz.

But trying to please everyone else can bring turmoil to your Yule.

The problem is that Christmas brings with it a pressure to say ‘yes’. Yes to that ‘must meet up before Christmas’ Snowball. Yes to that LOL surprise doll that actually seems like a lot of £ for not very much at all. Yes to making a donkey costume for the Nativity play. Yes to going to the Christmas carol concert. Yes to making cakes for the festive bake sale.

Yes, yes, yes!

But really it’s perfectly fine to say no. We just don’t seem to know how.

“It can be so easy to be seduced into merry mania at the cost of even considering what you want to do, who you really want to be with,” Kenny explains.

“But the highs of being a festive party animal can come down with a beastly bang,” he warns.

Thankfully there are ways to scale down your Christmas and learn to silence that inner FFOMO (that’s festive fear of missing out?)…

Give yourself a Christmas reality check

And be realistic about what you can and can’t take on. “There’s a middle ground between making everyone else’s Christmas shine vs saying no to everyone and everything,” explains Kenny. “So before getting overtaken by uncontrollable jollification – with baubles on – get clear about your own needs, get clear about the needs of others, get real about what you can realistically commit to and know that every time you are saying “no” to something, you are saying “yes” to something else.” 

Book in some free-time

Build in white space in your diary so that when you’re looking at it, your mind feels clearer and more at ease, suggests Carole Ann Rice, a life coach and personal development expert from Real Coaching Co. “Although it’s lovely to see everyone during the festive season, if you don’t want to feel burnt out then you need to put boundaries in place,” she says. “You can’t be the life and soul of the party five nights a week and not expect to feel the burn.”

We’re under pressure to say ‘yes’ to everything at Christmas [Photo: Getty]

Silence Christmas busy brain

“If Christmas is happening in your brain, then you’ll probably find yourself lost in the space of your head, over-thinking, fearful fantasising, second-guessing and trying to fix problems that don’t actually exist,” warns Kenny.

“So as soon as you find yourself disconnected from the Christmas that’s alive all around you, take a deep breath in and think ‘thank you for reminding me who I used to be’ (who you used to be was unavailable and in worryland) then as you breathe out, simply take part and focus on what’s in front of you.”

Don’t be the last man/woman standing

Normally to be found wandering round the dancefloor warbling Mariah Carey at 3am? It could be time to scale back. Carole suggests reducing your wind-up time to 20:30 or 21:00, so you’re home in time for an early night.

“To really help you not feel bad, just be really clear beforehand with the host that you must leave early and send a friendly text afterwards saying you had a lovely time but had to leave early,” she says.

“Everybody’s in the same boat during the manic festive period so chances are, you’re not going to upset anybody, people will understand.”

Delegate, delegate, delegate

Feeling the festive fatigue? Time to delegate. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to take part and help with the day and not just you, so don’t allow yourself to take on too much responsibility,” Carole Ann says.

She suggests delegating specific tasks, such as for drinks and snack serving, to other guests. “You can’t do everything yourself!”

Breathe it out

From the presents you’ve still got to wrap to the bread sauce you’ve still got to make (read buy!), when it all feels to much Carole Ann suggests trying this simple breathing exercise. “Go somewhere quiet, breathe in for 5 seconds slowly, fill your lungs as much as you can, then exhale for a minimum of 8 seconds so that it’s longer than the initial intake. Do this as many times as you can. This method will lower your heart rate, give you time to relax and distance yourself from stress and other people.”

Let go of the ‘perfect’ myth

Tying yourself in knots trying to  trying to find the ‘perfect’ presents, with ‘perfect’ wrapping paper, all tied up in a ‘perfect’ little bow? Time to drop the ‘perfect’ Christmas myth. Because it just doesn’t exist. “Take a deep breath and ultimately remember that there’s no pressure to be perfect – the only person putting that pressure on you, is you,” says Carole Ann.

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