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The Art of Saying No: Practical Tips for Female Physicians Over the Holidays

calendar management dealing with guilt female physicians holiday stress management maintaining sanity saying no setting boundaries and saying no work life balance strategies Dec 08, 2023

The holiday season is a time of merriment, joy, and festivities, as we come together with our families to celebrate and create lasting memories. However, with all the glittering lights and cheerful carols, there is a flip side that often goes unnoticed—the stress that accompanies the season. The harsh truth for us female physicians is that the holiday season can be a double-edged sword, bringing both joy and a unique set of challenges. 

During the holidays, I know the drill. I am often busy with work and trying to meet family expectations. It gets tough because there is this pressure to make everything perfect for my loved ones and being a physician makes it even more stressful. Believe me, I have been dealing with this for years now. Trying to manage the demands of my job and be there for my family and friends during the holidays can feel like a lot to handle and I will not hide the truth that it is overwhelming. 

Long hours, demanding schedules, and the constant need to stay updated with my job always leave me drained and exhausted. The holiday season, which should ideally be a time for my rest and rejuvenation, can turn into a stress-inducing period as I attempt to meet both personal and professional obligations. 

However, I know that the holiday season is not meant to meet these external expectations and that there is more outside my career, especially during this time; it is the perfect opportunity for self-care and reflection. Amidst the chaos, I know I can find solace in the idea of balancing holiday cheer with personal well-being. So, I always remind myself that this is the season to embrace the concept of self-care and prioritize my mental and physical health.  

So, to all the working moms and female physicians out there, that is hustling hard during this holiday season, we deserve our "me time". That is non-negotiable. After all, the season is a reminder that, in all responsibilities, taking care of oneself is the greatest gift one can give. 

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5 Essential Steps in Maintaining Sanity During Festive Season 

The festive season, while filled with joy and celebration, can also be a source of stress and overwhelm. Maintaining sanity during this busy time requires intentional effort and self-care. Here are five essential steps to help you navigate the festive season while preserving your well-being: 

Step 1: Planning and Organization 

For me, the first thing to do to keep myself sane during this holiday lies in how I plan and organize everything. Here are 3 ways I do it: 

Early Planning 

I have come to realize that the key to a stress-free holiday season lies in meticulous early planning. Creating a to-do list and establishing realistic goals serve as the cornerstones of my approach. While dealing with my demanding professional life, I need to have a structured plan for the holiday season. By breaking down tasks into manageable steps and setting achievable goals, I know I am well-prepared for the festivities without feeling overwhelmed.  

From scheduling specific tasks on certain days to allocating dedicated time for holiday preparations, these tips help lay the groundwork for a well-organized and enjoyable holiday experience. Early planning not only reduces last-minute stress but also allows me to savor the season's joys without the constant worry of unfinished tasks. 


Financial stress can spoil the fun during the holidays. So, I make sure to manage my finances wisely. I create a plan that lists everything I need to spend on, like gifts and decorations, and try to find fun and affordable ways to celebrate. I also like to commit to practical tips that fit my spending habits.  

This means making smart choices when buying gifts, trying do-it-yourself decorations, and picking activities that do not cost a lot. These choices help me enjoy the holidays without worrying too much about spending. It is all about finding a balance so I can have a joyful season without hurting my finances. 

Speaking of gifts, I have put together a holiday gift guide in case you are looking for ideas to surprise any hardworking woman in your life whom you deeply care about. Explore my gift guide here for thoughtful and meaningful suggestions. 

Calendar Management 

Handling social commitments can be challenging, especially when I am juggling my career with personal and social responsibilities. To strike a balance between work and personal life, effective calendar management is essential.  

Carefully planning and prioritizing events is crucial to avoid feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. It is about setting limits, making wise choices about commitments, and communicating effectively. With smart schedule planning—whether on your planner, phone, or laptop—writing down all your commitments can make a significant difference in maintaining that balance. 

Step 2: Setting Boundaries and Saying No 

Once I get everything planned and lined up, this next step can be challenging for some — setting boundaries. I have 3 small steps on how you can do it. 

Understanding Your Limits 

Understanding our limits is a fundamental aspect of self-care and well-being. It is crucial to recognize that every one of us has our capacity, and pushing beyond those limits can have significant impacts on our mental health. When we overcommit ourselves—taking on more than we can realistically handle—it can lead to stress, exhaustion, and feelings of overwhelm. 

By acknowledging and respecting our limits, we can prevent burnout and maintain a healthy balance in our lives. This means learning to say no when necessary and setting boundaries with others. It also involves listening to our bodies and minds, and taking breaks or seeking support when we need it. 

Practical Ways to Say No 

Saying no gracefully is a valuable skill that empowers us to maintain a healthy balance. Here are some practical ways you can use to decline invitations or requests with respect and assertiveness: 

  • Express appreciation 
  • Be honest and brief 
  • Offer alternatives 
  • Use "I" statements 
  • Express regret 
  • Be firm but polite 

Remember, saying no is not a negative thing—it is a way to honor our priorities and take care of our well-being. Using these strategies allows us to decline gracefully while maintaining positive and respectful communication. 

Dealing with Guilt 

When I am grappling with the challenge of handling guilt while putting my well-being first, I must acknowledge the validity of my needs. I remind myself that taking care of myself is not selfish—it is a vital part of keeping my overall health and happiness intact. Shifting my mindset toward self-compassion becomes possible by changing negative thoughts into positive affirmations. I have also learned that setting realistic expectations is key, understanding that I cannot make everyone happy all the time. When guilt creeps in, I see it as a chance to reflect on myself and understand why it happens. This helps me grow and handle similar situations better in the future. 

Do you struggle with setting boundaries for yourself? If defining your limits is a challenge, my book, Brave Boundaries can help. It is filled with my personal experiences and the valuable lessons I have learned along the way.   

Step 3: Self-Care and Stress Management 

The holiday season provides a great opportunity to prioritize self-care and show yourself some love. However, effective self-care is incomplete without managing stress effectively. Here's how I do it: 

Do Some Self-Care Techniques 

The holiday season can be quite hectic, especially for female physicians like myself. That is why it is crucial to incorporate personalized self-care activities into our daily routines. Whether it is indulging in spa treatments, practicing mindfulness techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises, or doing something else entirely, what truly matters is that we take the time to prioritize our own well-being and practice self-care in a way that works best for us. 

Managing Holiday Stress Gracefully 

To make sure I approach the holiday season in a healthy way, I rely on practical coping mechanisms. This includes creating realistic schedules that balance my work and festive commitments, setting clear boundaries to manage additional tasks, and incorporating mind-body techniques like yoga or just simply walking in nature.  

Looking for ways to shed stress? My FREE destress toolkit is here to provide you a collection of techniques and exercises that have been my go-to whenever I need to unwind. Whether it is deep breathing exercises, meditation, or practicing mindfulness, this toolkit has it all. I have personally found these techniques to be incredibly effective in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Give it a try and say goodbye to stress. 

Give Yourself a "Me Time" 

During the busy holiday season, I prioritize "me time" by disconnecting from work and technology and doing things that bring me joy and relaxation. Taking breaks for rest and self-reflection helps me maintain my well-being and keeps me energized to enjoy the festivity. As a female physician, understanding the importance of self-care and "me time" is crucial for me to have a fulfilling and rejuvenating holiday experience. We all want to get back to our work feeling super charged and refreshed, right? 

Are you finding it difficult to make time for yourself? My Time Management course offers a personalized guide that can help you carve out dedicated moments for your "me time". 

Step 4: Embracing Imperfection and Flexibility 

Each year, I know that I am not the only one who wants a better holiday experience compared to the last year. With everything on our plate, I know that what keeps me sane is reminding myself that there will be parts of this holiday season that are imperfect, and that is okay. All I need to do is be flexible and embrace the idea that not everything needs to be perfect. Allow me to share it in 3 simple ways: 

Letting Go of Perfectionism 

In my quest for a flawless holiday, I have realized that when I am too focused on everything to be perfect, I am just setting myself to unrealistic expectations which I know will hurt me. This only leads to nothing but stress, disappointment, and a missed opportunity to savor the authentic beauty of this season.  

I have also found that embracing imperfections can be a liberating experience, allowing me to find joy in the genuine and unscripted moments that truly define the holidays. Whether it is a slightly imperfectly decorated tree or a recipe gone slightly awry, the true magic of the season lies in the warmth of shared moments and the authenticity that imperfections bring. 

Do you feel like you are held back by limiting beliefs and ideas that hinder your personal growth? If you are looking for a fresh perspective, check out my podcast where I share practical tips and insights on how to overcome these obstacles and unlock your full potential. With guest interviews and personal anecdotes, my podcast aims to inspire and motivate you to embrace change and adopt a mindset of unlimited possibilities. 

Being Adaptable 

During this season, anything can go sideways, and with that, all I learned is to be adaptable. Yes, plans may go wrong, and instead of viewing unexpected changes as obstacles, I have come to consider them as opportunities for creative problem-solving. Just like the old saying goes, just go with the flow, right? 

Finding Joy in the Unexpected 

Some of my favorite holiday memories come from moments that happen out of the blue. These unplanned, joyful times feel special, even more so than the things we carefully plan. During times like this, allow yourself to let go of strict plans and appreciate the beauty in unexpected things—a sudden snowfall during a family walk, singing along without planning, or having a nice, unplanned chat. By finding happiness in these surprises, the holiday season can truly be wonderful naturally.  

Step 5: Connection and Community 

Finally, being with the people I love and care about keeps me happy and sane during the holidays. It shows that the holidays are a great time to feel connected and part of a community. Here are the 3 reasons why: 

Fostering Meaningful Connections 

During the busy holidays, it is important to focus more on having special connections with the people I care about than trying to be with a lot of people. What makes the season special to me is the close relationships I have with my loved ones. In a world full of distractions, spending time with those who matter most really matters.   

Community Involvement 

The holiday season presents a great opportunity to get involved in the community and spread kindness beyond our immediate circle of friends and family. When I share greetings or knowledge with others, especially with female physicians like me, it gives me a sense of purpose and connection to the bigger community around me. It makes my holidays more fulfilling and helps me feel connected to a bigger circle of friends beyond my family. 

Looking for a community where you can connect with like-minded women and build authentic relationships? Come join us at The Table. Our community is vibrant and supportive, with a focus on personal growth, empowerment, and creating lasting bonds. We believe in the power of shared experiences and the strength that comes from supporting each other on our journeys. Join us and experience the transformative power of connection and community. 

Balancing Solitude and Socializing 

Figuring out how to handle the holiday season means finding the right mix between spending time alone and being social, and I know that my perfect balance is different from others. Sometimes, I want the coziness of big holiday gatherings, while other times, I just want some quiet moments for myself. I take some time to think about what I need during the season, making sure to take care of myself without feeling guilty about it.  

Whether it is sticking to my holiday traditions, enjoying peaceful time by myself, or choosing when to be social, I think getting this balance right makes my holiday experience exactly how I like it and brings a sense of happiness during this festive time. 

Joyful Holidays Start with a Mindful Approach 

As a hardworking female physician, you deserve a holiday season that is one for the books, and it all begins with a mindful approach. To navigate the holiday season with grace, you can follow the five essential steps I shared above. Amidst the festive frenzy, honor your boundaries and be firm with them. 

If something doesn't bring you joy, it is okay to say no. 

If it doesn't align with your goals, confidently say no. 

If you don't resonate with something, do not hesitate to say no. 

I am on a mission to ensure we all enjoy a stress-free holiday, and it is absolutely okay to say no when necessary. Recognizing and protecting our boundaries is key. This season, I have personally crafted FIVE essential boundaries just for you to maintain your sanity. Check out my LATEST step-by-step guide—it is designed to provide the peace-filled holiday season you truly deserve. 

There are many more reasons and situations where you can say no. Saying no does not equate to missing out; instead, it is a conscious choice to protect your time and well-being. By discerningly selecting commitments and focusing on the activities that align with your values, you create space for genuine joy and meaningful connections.  


If you find it challenging to set boundaries for yourself and say no, know that you're not alone. But remember that every challenge has a solution, and that's what REVIVE is all about. As you navigate through the difficulties of setting boundaries, you will realize that saying no is not a rejection; rather, it is a powerful affirmation of self-worth.  

REVIVE empowers you with the necessary tools and mindset to navigate life with confidence and resilience, and it all starts with gracefully saying no without feeling guilty and embracing our boundaries firmly. 

So, let this time of the year be a reminder that the art of saying no is, in fact, an empowering act of self-care, allowing you to savor the holiday season with ease and grace.  

May this season be a time of joy, fulfillment, and celebration that resonates uniquely with you. 

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