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'The simple yes/no flow chart that literally saved me last Christmas.'

Ah, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year… and the time of year when most women are expected to be everything to everyone and be everywhere, all at the same time.

When it’s more important to us that others are having fun; the kids, family, friends who you don’t want to let down.

If you are a chronic ‘yes’ person as I used to be, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

It sounds like the biggest First World problem; ‘Oh, look at me, so busy and popular’, but the reality is exhausting and can drive us to drink eggnog even though it’s disgusting.

And yes, it is usually a pressure women in particular face and/or put on themselves. Every mum I know feels it. I watch it happen to my much younger friends, too; being pulled in different directions.

The things mums NEVER say at Christmas. Post continues below.

Video by Mamamia

But last year, I liberated myself from this Christmas B.S. I took control of it, and I learnt to say NO.

After an ‘incident’ (involving a teary breakdown from driving all over Sydney one December day) I had an ‘aha’ moment, as Oprah would say.

I realised that when I’d said yes to a million things, I hadn’t anticipated the mental load of the forward planning, being on time, working out where we were going, ensuring we had all the gifts/wine we needed to take, and bringing my sparkle constantly for the whole day.

And it didn’t click until that moment that I was in control of this; I had a choice.

So I drew this highly sophisticated flow chart to help me manage this Christmas mental load better:

Flow chart
My barely legible, but oh so helpful, mental load flow chart. Image: Supplied/Nama Winston.

Yes, that is the final chart, and yes, I know the neighbour’s dog has better handwriting.

But trust me, the chart is very effective.

This is how it works:

First step: Decide if the activity is for your personal benefit. We can't keep doing things just to make other people happy. Not even for our kids. You must be able to identify a personal benefit that means you won't be resentful and angry about doing something.

Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

So, no obligatory activity attendance, unless the next steps apply.

Second step: Would the person you're doing this for do the same thing for you? Would they buy you that present if they could afford it? Would they spend the time you're spending?

If the answers are no, ask yourself if you’re comfortable with that.

Third step: Can you really afford the money it will take to do this task or activity - or will it hurt your budget, and leave you feeling ripped off?

Fourth step: Are you attending the event/buying the gift at the expense of your peace of mind?

Fifth step: Regardless of all the above answers - do you really want to do it?

I found out the hard way that if I don’t consider every step, and still forge ahead - my mental load will explode.

I applied my chart to the rest of the holiday season. Following the steps, I discovered that my answer was more often than not “don’t do it” – and the stuff I did do, I really and truly enjoyed.


For example; the neighbours across the road, who are super fun (and who like to drink nice Champagne); YES. There was a lot in their Christmas cocktails for me. I love cultivating my friendship with them. I took over a curry, happily.

But the school mum I barely knew, but also didn’t really like, organising drinks at her home, necessitating me spending $100 on a sitter and more money on a bottle of wine I’d be judged on?

Nah. The old Nama would have said yes, but not the Nama with the power of a whiz-bang flow chart.

There was also another benefit beyond declining things I didn’t want to do: the flow chart’s process made me feel less guilty about saying no.

No guilt - that was the best bit. It was liberating, and it also helped me confidently tell people I wasn’t doing something, and then not feel bad about it.

There were even some people I took off my Christmas present list. It saved me money and time, and yes, I instead spent that money and time on the things that really mattered to me.

It made for a much less stressful, and much more enjoyable, silly season.

I know I will need the chart this year, more than ever. With my son finishing junior school, going home to Adelaide for Christmas, trying to fit everyone and everything in - sorry to any of my mates reading this, but yeah, in the lead up to Christmas, and when I’m home, I’m triaging you all.

This mental load flow chart was my gift to myself last holidays, and now I’m gifting it to anyone who needs it this year.

Don’t forget, there’s an ‘I’ in Christmas. You matter, too.

Nama Winston has had a decade-long legal career (paid), and a decade-long parenting career (unpaid). You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.