How to Say No & Not Overcommit Yourself During the Holidays

You just can’t do it all.

By Kelly Krause
fancy holiday party holiday cocktails

We’re into the second week of December and the jingling and mingling is well underway. Anyone else feel like the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are one giant sprint? Between tying up loose ends at work, making time to see friends, staying on top of workouts, popping into the usual holiday parties and gatherings, and wrapping up all Q4 efforts, I’m typically exhausted once January rolls around. 

If there’s one thing that 2018 taught me, it’s that I cannot do it all — and to be frank, I don’t want to do it all. So this year, I’m shifting my priorities around, establishing some good personal boundaries, and making a very concerted effort to leave a little more room on my calendar for some quality R&R.

featured image by Dagny Piasecki

holiday decor neutrals and whitesimage by Local Milk

1. First things first: movement takes priority

This one is a non-negotiable. Before any party or social gathering hits my calendar, I make sure I’ve made time and space for daily movement. Aside from the obvious health benefits, exercising daily truly makes me feel good, strong, and puts me in such a great mood.

I’ve been using Sundays to map out my workout week and make sure to book classes in advance so I’m set and ready to go. My pro-tip is to book early morning classes — I like to get my movement out of the way and leave time for fun in the evening. Booking early usually ensures I have an early evening and don’t overdo it on the holiday cocktails or snacks, too. It’s my sure-fire way to set myself up for success.

holiday exercises daily movementimage by All Birds

2. Ask: “How do I want to feel?” 

This one is helpful even out of the holiday season. Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes my excited personality leads to overcommitting and overbooking myself. I love being a part of the fun and love celebrating even the smallest of occasions. But I really have to do a gut-check before I RSVP “YES!” immediately and think about how I’ll feel the day or two after that commitment. I’ve found that taking a day or two to think about the event before responding is helpful. Most invites things don’t require an immediate response, so a good few days to really examine my priorities and commitments is helpful. 

Don’t forget to ask yourself “How do I want to feel” once you do RSVP and go to the event. It’s a great question to ask as you’re thinking about what to eat and drink, and what you have planned the next day. 

holiday party christmas cookiesimage by Kate Lesueur

3. Small gestures = big impact

Let’s get one thing straight: you cannot do it all. It’s physically impossible to do it all. But there are a few small gestures you can do that are just as meaningful. Here’s what I mean: if you can’t make a holiday dinner party, can you stop by for a drink and cheers the host instead? If you can’t make a birthday party, can you mail a card or gift to their home or work? There’s always another way to show someone that you’re thankful to be included, even if you can’t make it — and what a great way to get creative and personalize the gesture. I’ve been using the app inLieu lately to donate to a charity on behalf of a friend. It’s a nice way to not have to give a physical gift that they may not even like, and support a cause that is near and dear to their heart. And don’t worry about spending money if you simply don’t have it — a handwritten card or well thought-out email goes a very long way.

camille styles christmas cardimage by Wynn Myers

4.  If you don’t want to go, don’t go. 

Show of hands for those who only go to an event because they feel like they have to? I get it completely. There are some events where it might be viewed as disrespectful or simply just odd if you weren’t there. Use your best judgement here, but I’d be willing to bet that for 90% of those events, it isn’t disrespectful — it’s just the narrative in your head. I like to think about what’s going to feel better: saying no immediately and carving out time for rest which leaves me feeling better, or going to an event that I really don’t feel like attending, having a sub-par time, then losing quality sleep and personal time. Pretty easy decision when I lay it all out.

Now, I’m not saying you need to lie to a friend or host to decline an invite. Remember, you can’t do everything — but is there something in this instance that you can do, that will leave you feeling good? 

A simple, “Thank you so much for the invite, unfortunately I can’t make it. I hope it goes well, and wish you a wonderful holiday season!” is simple, honest, and kind. If you feel so inclined to send along a gift, or make a donation, do so — but it’s not necessary. 

holiday party image by Kate Turpin

5. Block out the first week of January

Even if I stick to the plan and don’t overcommit, the first week back to work is always a tough one for me. My inbox is typically overflowing and just getting back into the groove feels like a slow progression. So I keep the first week of January totally blacked out for any kind of meetings, events, or even catch ups with friends and use that time to ease back into my daily routine. And even if you did overcommit (hey, you’re only human), having the first week blocked off is a nice time to catch up on life in general. 

I truly hope each of you have a wonderful holiday season filled with the right mix of love, fun, rest, and reflection. It’s been a great year — and I’m so thankful to have had you along for the ride. See you in 2019!