This time of year, just when it seems impossible to fit one more thing in, we feel pressure to not only add in that one more thing but also to be a more perfect parent, partner, friend.

It’s the holiday season after all, right? The season of giving, and selflessness. And It can be particularly difficult for those of us who are already feeling overwhelmed. Everything we are already doing now gets a whipped topping of holiday parties, gifts, decorating, and managing the general uptick in stress that comes along with the season.

The truth is that not only do we not have to do all of these things but it’s usually better if we don’t. It doesn’t help our loved ones or us when we are so overwhelmed that we can’t relax or enjoy the holidays. And for those of us who are parents, it doesn’t help our children when we model selflessness at the expense of our own health and well-being.

Saying no is like exercising a muscle. The more you do it, the easier it gets (and the better it feels)!

Here are 7 things that you can choose to say “no” to this season if they don’t truly bring you joy — and what you can do instead:

1. Don’t send holiday cards

People may notice the first year. After that? Not so much. Instead, write letters to a handful of your closest friends and family and tell them what they mean to you.

2. Leave the party early

You can get to bed on the early side instead of exhausting yourself staying past your bedtime. You can also usually just skip the goodbyes. Send a text when you get home with a thank you, or even send an email. It helps the hosts to be able to enjoy the party if they aren’t barraged by a parade of people thanking them.

3. Skip making those cookies

If you really want Christmas cookies, go to the local bakery! You’ll save yourself the time, you’ll be more likely not to overindulge, and you’re supporting a local business to boot!

4. Cut down on the gifts

There’s a meme flying around social media this year with a good practice for gifting to children: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. We are shifting to this and adding a fifth—something to give, as in a donation in their name to a cause that aligns with them.

5. Gift bags instead of wrapping

Use gift bags instead of spending time wrapping all of your gifts. And if it’s gifts for your own family the bonus is you get to keep them and reuse them next year. Santa’s thrifty like that.

6. Ease up on the decorations

Just because you’ve always gone big with decorations doesn’t mean you need to. You can choose a wreath on your front door instead of stringing lights all over the yard. You can choose a small tree and your favorite ornaments instead of using all of them.

7. Skip the gym

What?! Yes! And don’t feel guilty about it. You can’t do it all, and when you have myriad commitments on top of your normal schedule sometimes it’s ok to let go of your regular habits for a short time. Consider an extra walk with your family or curling up in front of the fireplace instead.

These are just a few ideas but ultimately decreasing holiday stress and overwhelm is about vetting each choice you make by asking yourself: ‘Does this line up with my values and how I want to feel?’  Remember, it’s rare to feel like you wish you’d added more to your to-do list. Let yourself slow down and enjoy the season. You’re worth it.

Dr. Samantha Brody

Dr. Samantha Brody is a licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist, and the founder of Evergreen Natural Health Center in Portland, OR. For decades in her private practice and virtual consulting business, Dr. Samantha has helped people to transform their lives with her innovative, personalized approach. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Overcoming Overwhelm: Dismantling Stress from the Inside Out (Sounds True, January 2019). Visit and @drsamanthand.