Declaring 2015 to be the Year of the 'No'

Yield unnecessary stress by learning to say "no."

Last fall, a family counselor, after hearing our stories of stress, declared that we should cancel hosting Thanksgiving at our home. I looked at her dumbfounded. Un-inviting family members and changing the plan seemed crazy, but it also seemed like an ingenious solution. Rather quickly, my husband and I agreed with this proposal. That same day, I called family members and told them the situation. The relief I felt was incredible; the overwhelmed feeling I was carrying with me dissipated.

The counselor's permission to change the plan and essentially say "no" to hosting Thanksgiving got me thinking about commitments and stress, and it lead me to declaring 2015, The Year of the "No." This year I will be thoughtful in my decision to accept or decline a commitment. The following points will guide me:

Making the Choice. I am not suggesting you say no to anything that comes your way. I am saying to think about options before blurting out yes. Ask yourself:
• Why am I accepting this request?
• Why am I offering to host/attend/join?
• Is this a good use of my time?
• What part of my life will change?
• How will my family be affected?
• Do I have the time and energy to take this on?
• How will the person or organization making the request be affected?

Consider the answers to your questions before making the decision. Be sure you are making an informed and conscious choice.

Scope Creep. I am not a "Yes" woman, but I can get in over my head at times. It usually happens slowly and unintentionally. In project management, they call it "scope creep", when the boundaries of a job begin to blur and more items get added to the list. Before you know it, you have too much to handle.

Guilt. You made a promise, a long time ago, in a weakened state of mind, to a close friend, and saying no now would make you feel so guilty. If the guilt outweighs the actual promise, probably best to go ahead and do whatever you promised. But if you can get beyond the guilt and find another way to handle the situation without letting too many people down, then try it out. When we called the first family member about cancelling Thanksgiving, they seemed relieved. They have an elderly pup that needed their love and care. When researching hotels in our area, they could not find one that would accept a dog. You cannot predict how people may accept your choice, but sometimes it may work out for their benefit too. Letting guilt make the decision for you may not prove to be the best choice for anyone.

Compromise. Sometimes, the answer is in between a no and a yes, but definitely not a maybe. My best friend hosts a Holiday Cookie Exchange Party every year. I love participating because the cookies are delicious, and it is social time with other women. This year, when she asked me about the party, I told her that I would not be attending. I love the event, but the baking is stressful as well as the added pressure to avoid eating all those yummy cookies. Taking into consideration what I said, and thinking that other women may feel the same, she planned a lunch at her favorite local restaurant. The fun and social time were still met, but no one had the extra cookie calories or stress of baking. Finding the right blend of needs can get to the best opportunity for all parties at that specific time. As lives change, the opportunity can be molded yet again to fit the needs of everyone.

Tell the Truth. Telling the truth about your situation helps others accept your decision. Most people have been on the receiving end of an offer, opportunity or promise that is too much for them to handle at the time. Empathizing is easier than we imagine. And it works the other way around – when we hear no, we understand as well.

Change Up the Tradition. It was a difficult choice this year, but we changed our Christmas Day and kept it to just our immediate family and ordered Chinese takeout for dinner. There was no pressure to serve a meal or stay to a timeline. We ate when we wanted and had plenty of leftovers. It may not be what we decide to do every year, but for this year, it was what we needed as a family.

Whether 2015 is The Year of the "No," or the year of the "Yes," make it your own choice. Using a thoughtful process to make your decision will help you feel in control of your limited time and energy. Setting priorities about your family time, health and career will guide your decisions. Saying "no" to one thing opens doors to saying "yes" to something else. Being creative with the opportunities may lead to everyone being happy with the outcome.

Vanessa Infanzon is a Charlotte mom to three boys and writes about their adventures at