How to set boundaries and mind your mental health to avoid holiday burnout

Posted at 5:29 AM, Nov 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-15 08:02:54-05

(WXYZ) — With the holiday season approaching, many people are gearing up for the extra obligations that come along with this time of year.

It seems like the demands come from all sides of our time, money, and attention, and it can be overwhelming.

According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety and stress climb during this time of the year, especially when we try to do it all.

But, there are ways to take on less, and say "no" more. It's a short word, but it can be hard to say, especially during the holidays.

"Oftentimes, we are really worried about what other people are going to think about us," Kelly Houseman, a licensed professional counselor, said.

Generally, she said, we want to get along and avoid disappointing or hurting the person making the request. For others, it's a fear of conflict.

Kasima Simpson is planning her upcoming wedding and says she has learned to say "no" in part to protect time with her fiancée, Yolanda.

"People are afraid to have conversations. If I can’t make it, even if I've committed to it, I have no problem making a phone call or sending a text and saying I'm sorry I can't make it," Simpson said.

Being honest with those making the request and being honest with yourself is essential in taking on less. It may actually protect those relationships down the road.

"It's better to be a little bit uncomfortable having these conversations than it is to be angry and bitter that you signed up for something that you just don't have the bandwidth to deal with," Houseman said.

She does have some tips to help you say "no."

First, she said to remember what you gain by saying no. Is it less stress? Does it free you up to spend time with your family? Does it take the strain off your finances? Keep the benefits in mind.

Houseman has some tips on saying no.

"A lot of people try to explain or say sorry or apologize. But again, just a simple no is enough on its own," Houseman said.

If they keep pushing, she said to just tell them “That doesn’t work for me.”

"Just keep saying that and holding your boundaries strong," she said.

If the request is one you may consider but you aren’t sure in the moment, tell them you'll get back to them. That will allow you to consider the pros and cons and make a thoughtful decision.

Another tip: Identify the activities and organizations that you’re most passionate about and make a plan to give there. That will make it easier to politely decline requests later on because you are honestly already committed.

Houseman says while saying no may be uncomfortable at first it does get easier with time. The people making these requests don't know what you have on your plate, only you do, so, it’s up to you to guard your money, time and emotional health.