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Warning! We are about to enter the high stress zone – the holidays. And there is no detour – we just have to power on through.

What’s weird is this – it’s also supposed to be the most wonderful time of year – magical and all that jazz. There should be time to relax and enjoy some downtime. At least that’s the theory. But with all the expectations this time of the year brings, finding even an inkling of balance can become way more challenging than normal. As those demands for our time and energy increase, it’s quite easy to find ourselves saying yes one minute, and seriously regretting it the next.

It’s especially true for us women. We’re are hard wired to please (how lucky are we?). We hate to disappoint (again we are  just so blessed – not!).  But it isn’t wise, and it’s definitely not healthy, to say yes to every request. Too many yeses will send you to the land of resentment. And that’s not a pretty place to visit, as a matter of fact it’s downright ugly – the ‘avert your eyes, mama’s come unhinged, and their ain’t no cure in sight’ kind of ugly.

So, what can we do to to regain some balance?

It’s simple, just start saying no. You know, that two letter sentence – the one with the N and the O. Got it?

OK, I am being more than a tad flip.

Learn How To say say No Graciously & Without GuiltAs a matter of fact, I am probably writing this as much as a reminder for myself, as I’m writing it for others.  And I know that simple  is not the same as easy –  learning how to say no takes  practice, just as mastering any skill does. But this skill is absolutely worth honing – the return on investment is huge –  you get your ticket to land of Freedom. If you’ve been there you know it’s glorious! If you haven’t, then get ready for something that will blow your mind – saying no to what you don’t want to do is positively sublime – it’s may not be better than you-know-what, but it’s about as close as you’re going to get while fully clothed ; )

Here are some tips to get you started (I’ve got a video version if you’re just to spent to read):

Realize your time is valuable. It is just as valuable as anyone’s. Which means it’s as valuable as the person who’s making the request. If accepting that request means you have to give up something of your own, you owe it to yourself to say no. And you owe it that person. No one, at least anyone who cares about you, would want you to give up anything just so they could gain.

Evaluate the situation. Are you the only one who can take on the task? And by that I mean really, truly the only living soul – not just that you are good at it. Is it a blood pooling emergency?  If either of these are true, you’ll probably be compelled to say yes, and rightfully so. But beyond these rare exceptions, you need to take a minute (or five) and give some thought to what saying yes will mean for you. When you think about committing do you feel good? If the answer is anything short of enthusiastic Hell Yeah! Bring It On, then a no would probably best for all involved. Remember, it’s far easier to go back and say yes, than to take back a yes.

Buffer your no. No is a complete sentence, you don’t have to embellish it, but it sounds nicer when the sharp edge is taken off – just don’t take too much edge off or you may find yourself being cajoled into a yes. To buffer, preface the no with a gracious statement. ‘Thank you for thinking of of me, but I will have to say no’  is perfect. As a matter of fact you should practice this statement until it feels like you own it, especially if you want it to roll off your tongue as easily as yes. Now if you are feeling compelled to offer more in the way of an explanation, a simple ‘My schedule is just too full’ works really well.  Remember, buffering isn’t about legitimizing – don’t even go there – if you do you risk opening up loopholes that could trap you  into a yes.

Offer alternatives. But only if you’re 100% excited to do so – don’t do it out of obligation. How do I mean? Well, let’s suppose the idea of helping someone is appealing, but not in the way they have requested. For example, maybe you’ve been asked to help your niece get a job at your company – you know, the old could you grease the wheel favor.  Let’s imagine slitting your wrists sounds better than trying to make nice with the HR people.  But let’s also imagine you truly like your niece and you really want to help her. So instead you might offer to be her mentor, or help her craft a kick-ass resume. Now that’s a clear win all around, right?

Get comfortable with no – embrace it, make it yours. Using it will relieve stress, free your time, and make you happier. Try it – you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. As a matter of fact I can hear the freedom bell ringing for you!

And if you need some additional tips on how to manage the stress of the holiday season, I’ve got you covered…learn how to stop holiday stress before it starts.

(If you want to really set yourself up for a more peaceful holiday season, be sure to pop on over  and grab The Less Stress, More Joy, Save Your Sanity Action Plan – it’s free!)

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