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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Joy to the world! Peace on earth! Happy holidays! Or is it? This is one of the most stressful times of the year for many. Family time, travel, gifts to buy, meals to prepare, etc. We want this time of the year to be merry and bright for our family and friends. Feeling overwhelmed is an under-statement.

Kick off December by giving yourself the gift of a wholistic approach to survive the holiday season.

Day 5 of the 12 Days of Christmas

Tip # 5: Saying "Yes" when you should say "No"

Saying yes to everything overwhelms people and can make them bitter and chronically stressed. Saying "yes" when you need to say "no" (especially during the holidays) is actually a bad habit. All bad habits are associated with low activity in the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), which limits forethought. Consequently, when you are asked to do something, you reflexively say yes without thinking. Sadly, many wrongly believe that if they sacrifice themselves (their time, money, etc.) on behalf of others, they will be liked or appreciated more. This is due to the fact that many become "people pleasers" because they have a fear of being abandoned and/or may feel invisible or insignificant. Some "people pleasers" find it difficult to be authentic. This holiday, give yourself the gift of learning to recognize, understand and meet your own needs! Dr. Daniel Amen suggests you use the magic phrase, "I have to think about it", before committing to any request made of you. Furthermore, filter every request through the following question:

  • "Does this fit the goals I have for my life?" (relational goals, work goals, financial goals, or physical, spiritual and emotional goals).

If the request interferes with any of the above goals, politely decline the request made of you.

Tips on How to Control Saying Yes, When You Should Say No! (Amen, p. 139-40)

  1. Do you have this habit? You may if you often feel overwhelmed, tired, or have no time for yourself.

  2. What are your triggers? Trying to please people, saying 'yes' without thinking, and/or attempting to avoid feelings of guilt.

  3. Identify the reward you are receiving for saying 'yes'. (Rewards may include feeling significant or like you are a good person)

  4. Build a new routine. Always start with the magic phrase, "I have to think about it". Next, filter your response through the goals you have for yourself. If the request interferes with your goals, politely decline.

As I stated earlier, all bad habits are associated with low activity in the PFC. The Prefrontal Cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for focus, forethought, impulse control, organization, planning, judgement, empathy and insight. It is involved in executive functions; such as clearly stating what is on your mind. When this part of the brain is healthy, you can express your feelings appropriately and be goal directed. Work towards taking care of your PFC so that you can have a healthy, happy holiday!

Ways to Care for your Prefrontal Cortex:

1. Exercise: (see previous tip). Working out boosts blood flow to the PFC, which can help you be more productive. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes every day.

2. Sleep: (see previous tip) Poor sleep can impact your health in some very serious ways. Less sleep leads to slower reaction times in tasks, brain fog, and poor decision-making. It’s recommended that you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.

3. Practice good nutrition and supplement when needed: Green tea, and Rhodiola can increase blood flow to the PFC. Increased blood flow to this area may help you make better decisions. Eat a nutritious diet to keep blood sugar levels in the healthy range. Poor blood sugar control is associated with lower overall blood flow to the brain, poor impulse control, irritability, and bad decisions.

4. Always ask 'then what' or state that you need 'to think about it': Always consider the consequences of your behavior before you act. Self-control is one of the best ways to strengthen your PFC. To develop your PFC, you can practice saying 'no' to the things that aren’t good for you and do not interfere with the goals you have set for yourself.

Taking care of your brain is the single most important gift you can give to yourself for the holidays. Give your family and friends the gift of authenticity. Say 'yes' to those things that you can realistically commit to and that do not interfere with your goals. You'll be much happier and healthier!


  1. AMEN, DANIEL G. “Saying Yes, When You Should Say No Bad Habit Dragons.” Your Brain Is Always Listening: Tame the Hidden Dragons That Control Your Happiness, Habits,... and Hang-Ups, TYNDALE REFRESH, S.l., 2022, pp. 139–140.

  2. “What Is the ‘Executive Center’ of the Brain?” Amen Clinics What Is the Executive Center of the Brain Comments,

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