A guilt-free guide to saying 'no' at Christmas.

This time of year there is A LOT going on - invites to Christmas parties, family gatherings, drinks with friends… it can get too much at times.  

If you're struggling with all the festive commitments, you might be experiencing Christmas burnout

The thing you probably want most is to say no and stay home for a day, especially during this festive season when life gets so chaotic and busy. Yet saying no to these events is easier said than done. Plus, it's especially difficult objecting to outings with our loved ones and close friends.  

Jacqui Manning is the resident psychologist at Connected Women, an organisation that facilitates friendships for women over 50 through a range of online and in person events. She also has over 20 years of experience in this field. And with this in mind, she certainly has a bit of expertise when it comes to managing all things burnout. We posed our biggest questions to her, and she shares with Mamamia all her best tips and advice.

Watch: Here's how to resist your people pleasing urges and learn to say no. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Is it common to struggle with saying no?

Simple answer: yes. it's super common.


"I have talked with a lot of clients that have experienced that feeling. And you know, I've gone through phases of learning, of not being able to say no myself and improving on that," Manning says.

Interestingly, this experience is more common among women than it is men.  

"I think it's a particular female problem. Women value our relationships with people and whether that's our friends and colleagues, our boss, partner, whatever. And so when we're being asked a question, we get worried that if we say no, it might interrupt that flow of that relationship. Whereas men are able to sort of compartmentalise it a bit better," she tells Mamamia.

According to the Spanish Journal of Psychology, women tend to have greater feelings of empathy - and therefore struggle to say no. So really, it's a scientific fact. 

What are the consequences of not being able to say no? 

If you're constantly saying yes to things you don't feel comfortable with, then your ability to deal with the day-to-day gets struck, say the experts.

"Not being able to say no can cause anxiety. When you're feeling anxious the cognitive functioning of your frontal lobe and your midbrain don't function well, and this can lead to fogginess and poor concentration," Manning tells Mamamia.

Is the challenge to say no more evident during the Christmas season? 

"Yes it is. We are exhausted from finishing up work from the year, yet feel obliged to go to many Christmas events," says Manning.

Dr Thomas Henricks says there are four types of people that face Christmas burnout. 


The controller: People who love being in control of events. They take care of everything from the Christmas planning to the preparation, as they fear if others contribute, the outcome won't match the 'perfect vision'.

The trapped: If you don't feel the need or want to participate in many or all of the Christmas festivities, but feel you must out of obligation, this could be you. 

The over-committed: This is you if you have made a million plans, from Christmas parties to holidays with your family, leaving zero time for yourself. 

The 'outsider': Turns out you don't need to celebrate Christmas to feel Christmas burnout. There are many reasons you may not celebrate Christmas, maybe due to your religious beliefs, cultural background, or other reasons. The burnout comes from the continuous explanation of why you don't celebrate, says Dr Henricks.

What is your top tip for saying no? 

Prioritising yourself, although hard at times, is most important. 

"Saying upfront 'I don't have the capacity this week', or I 'don't have the energy' is the most straightforward yet challenging solution," notes Manning. 

"Working on a few things to say beforehand can be a good idea to make it so that it feels natural for yourself and not put on the spot. If you do feel put on the spot, then it's always okay to ask for extra time and just go 'Hey, I want to get back to you on that one. I'll check my diary and I'll and I'll get back to you', which gives you time to then say what you really mean.


"Check in with your body. Remind yourself that you are still a good friend to that person without going to every single social event."

How do I avoid burnout this festive season?

Whether it is going for a 'silent walk' through nature, listening to your favourite music, or whatever you enjoy, self-care is extremely important.  

"You can think of self-care a bit like a bank account, you've just got to keep topping up your energy for when to donate those big spends, like parties or family Christmases or travel and all those things. It's the centre of our functioning," Manning explains.

"I try and encourage my clients to find small things that help ground them. So that might be just five minutes alone, quiet, no phones just lying down on the couch, you know that this might be something that you can do for 10 minutes to just regroup or stand outside and breathe some fresh air, look at the water or the sky just to get back into that to get back into your body, as we get away in our heads."

And by saying no, we can do our bodies a great deal of good.

Although we live in a modern world, our bodies and brains remain quite primal. We're designed to have breaks, take pauses in life and have rest days - sometimes a switch off is the best thing to do. And if that means no more burnout - well then it's well worth a go!

Feature Image: Getty.

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