4 ways to Gracefully Receive a Game Changing Holiday NO!

In article after article about holiday overwhelm, you’re encouraged to clarify what’s meaningful, make considered choices, sustainably shop, and not over-schedule your plate with too many obligations. This means you will probably need to say, “No” a few times – often easier said than done.

Saying “No” is a key skill for any successful person. Often when you can do this, you’ve become a good judge of how much time things take, and how much time you actually have to spare. You might even include self-care and support tasks into the “available time” equation – if you are an experienced and advanced practitioner of life on earth.

But what happens when you get given a “no” that disagrees with your hopes and plans for the season? I had this experience with a family tradition recently I’d come to expect, (and perhaps take for granted). I realized the holidays can be a virtual mine field for these kind of occurrences. No wonder stress can rule the season!

Well, no worries. With a few soul savvy steps, this challenge can be shifted to a sense of grace and appreciation. Newfound traditions can even be invented or reinvented – under duress perhaps at first, but eventually with a creative heart.

Being your True Self Asks Constant Honesty

Often you might do pretty well the rest of the year with how you manage your obligations and commitments. Yet the holidays can be a tough road for learning how to honor yourself as well as your loved ones. Traditions can carry a lot of momentum. Children want to see grandparents or uncles/aunts, and vice versa. What you desperately feel a need for may conflict with the needs of your fellow passengers. Yes, what else is new?

While you don’t necessarily have to take fierce action and cut off every activity that is no longer a soul feeder (after all, you’re still on earth, friend), you may find that the more clear and healed you become, the less able you are to go through motions. In fact, some compromises of your values can really set you back. So you want to be able to clearly and gracefully GIVE a no, as well as gracefully RECEIVE one.
In fact, sometimes the “no’s” that come at you that at first seem unsettling and disappointing, can turn out to be a positive game changer for you and your loved ones.


1) When Triggered, Don’t Act

Holidays are often a sensitive and challenging time for many. A game-changing “no” can initially trigger you and throw you into old family dynamics. This is Oh So Normal, dear friend, so you don’t have to take it personally or feel too bad for too long, about this common wallpaper of December.
When you recognize that special tug of getting deeply triggered, take note. You will feel this in different ways – I tend to feel triggers physically – I might feel nauseous, or get familiar body sensations like the old collapsed chest and tense jaw. The thing about triggers is they make the situation feel big. It can be easy to get dramatic and feel like you’ve been wronged or that others have no clue about you.
When triggered, don’t act. Give it a little air time. With my recent situation, I made a simple “okey doke” email reply, and then made time for my own work. And that brings us to step 2.

2) Manage your Emotions

Does a little innocent, or not so innocent-seeming, NO blow your cover? Does it bring up core issues? Wonderful! How clever of you, super hero light worker. I know you know that’s exactly what we’re here for, to keep clearing the crap from the hearts of humans. To keep modeling kinder and gentler methods of responding when we’re under the gun, so to speak. To keep increasing the impeccability quotient of your thoughts, actions and words. Lots of fertile ground here for the next step it turns out. And in the meantime, you can what – take a walk, count to ten, breathe, schedule that massage or quality time with a friend, play the drums, racquetball or pyramid solitaire – whatever it takes to first work with your emotions in your own playing field. This way you have a bit more “intelligence” from your insides when you finally do take action, way down the road.

3) Explore with your Tools

There are tons of tools, I always say, yet it sometimes is a challenge to use them when you most need them. The Zen proverb says, Sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” So when you feel a mood shift, when you feel hurt, when you feel scared – these are all prime opportunities to use your tools. A tool is anything that can help you calm down, gain insight, explore alternate views, and basically, remove yourself from being under the thumb of the emotion. A basic question you can ask or write about is; what is the opportunity here? What is the gift of this challenge?

4) Make New Plans

Once you have distilled the learning of this experience, you may find your initial shock and disappointment can be shifted to getting creative. What else can be invited in? What new kind of innovation might be encouraged or brought into existence? With my situation, I saw that there were new opportunities for both sides. My family members would have less to do, and I could put more attention to my soul family members. Perhaps new traditions can be born, more up-to-date ones.

After that initial discomfort that arises with any change, and those end-of-the-world-as-I-know-it fantasies subside, the new possibilities became intriguing. I can now say, “Well, thank you, world rocking NO!” (And note to self; “Thanks for not responding when you were upset! Now that would have made a nice holiday mess, and been off base besides”.) Perhaps I can be a bit more adventurous when one of these NOs shows up again.

Wishing you a deep and wakeful solstice and holiday season,
Denise Barnes

P.S. Consider yourself invited to my first ever Soul Holy Nights, a twelve day end of year virtual retreat. This is designed to create time for contemplation, reflection and clearing of the past year, so as to spruce up the threshold for the coming year. More info here.

About Denise Barnes

Licensed Therapist, Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor, Denise has an office in Boulder CO and is a certified Telehealth provider.
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