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How to say 'no' to a Christmas celebration invitation

Christmas party season is a time of celebration with family, friends and colleagues, but when we're inundated with invitations to festive celebrations the merriment can quickly turn to stress and exhaustion.

Learning to say 'no' to Christmas events is a great way to protect your mental health. Being in control of what parties and dinners you attend is the most effective way to avoid Christmas 'burnout' - physical and mental exhaustion caused by the stress and pressure of constantly socialising over the holiday season.

Reasons for wanting to decline a Christmas party

According to a survey of 3,228 Patient.info readers, there are five top reasons given for declining, or wanting to decline, an invitation

  1. Attending may cause me social anxiety.
  2. Attending may be expected but I won't have fun.
  3. Attending may cost me too much money.
  4. Attending may be too exhausting.
  5. I'm embarrassed about my appearance.

Social anxiety

A total of 503 readers cited social anxiety around Christmas as their main reason for not wanting to attend a Christmas event. This is a form of anxiety that is specifically related to social situations, and it can affect anyone.

According to the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), you may be experiencing social anxiety before a Christmas celebration if instead of excitement, you feel sick, stressed, have an intense feeling of impending doom, are sweating, or have a quickened heart rate.

The pressure to have fun

Anticipating that attendance may be expected but won't be fun was selected by 443 of readers. This reflects the amount of pressure many of us feel to constantly socialise over the season, regardless of the impact on our health, energy levels, or wallets.

Financial stress

The financial strain over Christmas that can come from attending events and buying outfits, gifts, food and drink can be a big cause of stress. 379 readers have wanted to decline an invitation because of the costs.

Exhaustion

Exhaustion - or burnout - is also a common experience during this busy time of year, and was cited by 361 readers. For many of us, this is made worse by excessive drinking, whether this be at work Christmas parties or with family and friends. It's important to drink safely over the festive season to reduce mental and physical exhaustion.

Body image

Sadly, being self-conscious of our appearance can sometimes prevent us from enjoying the festivities even when we may want to. In particular, staying body positive over Christmas can be challenging when we're under pressure to dress up for Christmas parties and dinners.

It's also worth remembering that it's OK and normal to fluctuate in weight a little over winter when we crave more comfort food.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

As the cost-of-living rises, so does the number of people having of chronic - long term - stress...

Thinking about what you need this Christmas

Whatever your reasons, know that it's okay to turn down an invitation this Christmas if you don't think you'll have fun. After all, Christmas celebrations are supposed to be enjoyable occasions.

Mental health charity Mind has the following advice for coping with Christmas:

  • It's OK to prioritise what's best for you.
  • Think about what you need, and whether you really need to do things if you're not looking forward to them.
  • Set boundaries and say no to things that aren't helpful for you.
  • Take time out from Christmas.

Learning to say no doesn't mean embracing your inner Christmas Grinch. In fact, turning down some invitations can also mean that you feel less overwhelmed and more energised to attend and have a better time at others. It's all about finding the right balance for you.

Top excuses for turning down a festive invitation

Out of 1,454 Patient.info readers, 73.5% admitted to having told a "little white lie" to avoid a festive celebration.

Favourite excuses for declining an invitation
These were:

  1. Sorry, I won't be around: 38%.
  2. Sorry, but this clashes with my extended family invitation: 28.5%.
  3. Sorry, but my partner and I have plans and we get little alone time together: 8%.
  4. Sorry, but I have to work late: 6%.
  5. Sorry, I have a new puppy/kitten/goldfish and I can't leave them alone: 5.5%.
  6. Sorry, this sounds like fun, but I must decline to avoid burnout this season: 4.5%.
  7. Sorry, but no one can babysit the children/my child: 2.5%.

Fewer than 1 in 20 are happy to divulge if they're feeling burned out, which is a small amount when compared to a recent survey which found that around 35% of people experience burnout over the Christmas season.

Instead, most people feel more comfortable relying on handy excuses. Around 2 in 5 readers prefer to rely on the vague excuse "sorry, I won't be around". Using an extended family gathering was also the favoured excuse for over a quarter of readers, followed by having special plans with a partner.

Whether you like to fall back on one of these popular "white lies", want to keep your excuse vague, or prefer to be honest about managing Christmas burnout, it's important to feel comfortable turning down events if they are causing you a lot of stress.

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