Ho Ho No: 8 ways to say no to what’s draining you this holiday season

Visualize how you want to feel

Think about the way you want to feel and be this holiday season. Would you like to feel refreshed? Energized? Joyful? Calm? Grounded?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. Just what you want for yourself. Take a moment and think about how you’d like to feel. Center on a word or phrase that represents that feeling. 

Draw a picture and/or visualize what that feeling would look like. How does it smell, taste, feel, sound, look like? Are there activities that accompany that feeling? 

Write down adjectives that go with that feeling. What things or activities elicit those adjectives or feelings? Draw or write those down as well. 

Place this picture/brainstorm somewhere prominent where it can encourage you daily. Use this as a centering tool to focus how you want to feel during this busy season 🙂 

Illustration by Courtnay Hough

Block me-time on the calendar

Thinking about how you want to feel and the drawing/brainstorm you just created, what are some of the activities that came up for you? What are some of your favorite self-care activities? 

Take some time right now and schedule some self-care activities for yourself. If you’re an introvert, it can also be powerful to block out quiet time on your calendar. 

View these times as booked for you. Maybe even purchase a massage or reserve a workout/yoga class if you think you need extra encouragement to hold to these times for you. 

Knowing yourself is a powerful help in taking care of yourself. For example, my anxiety spikes in the late afternoon, so I try to schedule social activities or yoga classes at that time. If I’m at home, I can sometimes spiral into negative thoughts. 

This self-knowledge helps me to give myself what I need to stay on a positive track. I don’t have to be perfect. The more I know myself, the more I can give myself the best gifts in each moment. 

Be intentional about time and activities for you. As you say yes to events/items, add additional me time to your calendar before and/or after those events for re-booting. 


Make a plan 

Given your feeling/visualization, make a list of activities that fuel that feeling. These are the things you can confidently say yes to. 

Next, create a Hard No list. These are items that drain you. These increase your anxiety and make you feel overwhelmed. 

It’s just honest to identify them as such. You can still love and care about the people and recognize that that particular activity drains you. 

Finally, it is time for the Neutral list. These are activities that fall in between. You might not be exactly sure about them. They can elicit mixed emotions: happiness and anxiety. That’s okay. This is exactly what the neutral list is for. 

Looking at the lists: review the yes list first. If it is short, add those items to the calendar. If it is already pretty long, re-examine and see if some of the items really belong on the Neutral list. Maybe move some over. 

If the Yes List is still rather long. Prioritize your favorite or most fulfilling activities/items. Star those ones. Then add them to the calendar. 

Leave the unstarred items off, for now, you can always add them later. Be sure to add self-care items adjacent to any yes activities you just added to your calendar. 

Illustration by Courtnay Hough

Give yourself permission to say no 

When you get asked about the Neutral List (or unstarred Yes list items), it can be helpful to have some phrases prepared. These two are great go-to’s:  “I’ll have to check my calendar.” “I’m not sure, I might have something on that date.” 

Remember, a self-care activity is a prior commitment. Saying that you’re going to check your calendar is perfectly acceptable, and it gives you time to evaluate how you feel about that option. 

People invite you to feel good. If it is an obligation for you, perhaps consider saying no. It’s totally okay to be busy. If it won’t bring you joy, people who truly care about you don’t want you to emotionally torture yourself. 

If saying no is a new skill you’re developing, so good for you! Take a moment to feel proud of yourself. Perhaps also consider trying out this guided meditation on saying no.  


Practice saying no 

Just like any new skill in your classroom we want to practice it. This helps us learn how to best use this skill for ourselves by reflecting on what works best. 

Ask some people you love and trust for help/support. Tell them about your goal, and ask if they will help you practice/maintain those boundaries. 

It can also help to get a few phrases running through your repertoire. Some great options are: “I have a prior commitment” (Your prior commitment can always be you time.) and “I think that would be too much for me that week”. 

 If saying no in the moment causes you anxiety try: I’ll get back to you. I need to check my calendar, and then I’ll let you know. I have to think about it. 

People who care about you will understand (and support you) as you develop healthy boundaries and take care of yourself. Some may even help you along the way! 

The more you do it, the easier it becomes. 

Reflect on the hiccups 

You don’t have to be perfect. You might say yes to something and then regret it immediately (or a little later). That’s totally okay. Reflect on the experience. 

Why do you regret it? Did you say yes to too many things that you enjoy? No matter how fun and refreshing, once there are too many events on the calendar, they all lose a bit of their luster. 

Did you say yes to something that doesn’t bring you joy? What is draining about it?

Reflect so you can better hold space for yourself in the future. By reflecting you can better understand where you want your boundaries to be and how to hold them effectively. 

It’s not about judging yourself or feeling bad about hiccups along the way. Learn from the experiences and grow. 


Celebrate your successes! 

Really feel those positive vibes when you say no. Embrace pride in your growth and hard work. 

Soak up and enjoy your self-care and you time. Take a moment or two to appreciate these gifts you gave to yourself. 

You are amazing. You are worthy of happiness. You are capable. 

Continue to work on saying yes to what energizes you and brings joy. Enjoy the space and time you cultivate for yourself when you say no. 

 Appreciate all you are. You deserve all the happiness. Feel the freedom of giving it to yourself. 

Enjoy a fabulous holiday season!

Smile. Breathe. Take time for you. You’ve got this! 



  • Alison Dye

    Thank you for this insightful and helpful reminder! Happy Holidays to you!!

    • Katrina Glenn

      It is truly our pleasure! We’re so glad you found it helpful 💙 Happy Holidays to you as well!

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