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Taking the pressure off the holidays

The winter holidays are a wonderful, happy, joyous time of the year. Yes, they are. Except when there is so much pressure and expectation and activity that the joy is lost and the stress is through the roof. Being busy — too busy, really — can have the opposite effect on the holidays for everyone in the family. When the holidays become all about the “to do” list, where’s the enjoyment? Where’s the wonder? When the kids are cranky and you are frazzled, what’s the point?

Christmas stress

Overdoing it at the holidays can leave you overwhelmed, overtired, at risk for holiday depression — and completely devoid of holiday spirit. Instead of turning up the pressure this holiday season and trying to do it all, turn down the pressure and the activity level and make it a more enjoyable holiday — for everyone in the family. You may want the holiday to be “perfect,” but perfect is impossible. Rethink your holiday from the perspective of quality instead of quantity.


Make a list of all the things you hope to do during this holiday season. It’s a long list! Now make a list of all the normal things that need to get done, like laundry and helping with homework. Also a long list! Take a deep breath — you might be panicking already just looking at the lists.

All those things together are just not realistic! They aren’t! You may be an everyday superhero, but even Wonder Woman would cry looking at those combined lists, and you don’t have Hermoine Granger’s time turner.

Prioritize your Christmas chores — pick the top three things you want to accomplish for the holidays and make a plan to get them done — in coordination with the everyday stuff. Then pick the next three things, and see where you can realistically fit them in, if you can fit them in. Now look at the list and choose the three least important things. Cross them off the list. Yes, remove them. Continue to prioritize your holiday list in this manner. See, you’re breathing easier already.

Schedule downtime and together time

You could be busy every second of every day, holiday season or not. When are you going to sit down and just breathe? When are you going to play that silly game with your son or have a tea party with your daughter? You aren’t — unless you schedule it. Yes, schedule it.

Put “time on the couch” on the calendar and on your daily to do list. Thirty minutes to sit on the couch with a cup of tea and watch your favorite reality show can be rejuvenating! Your kids need together time in the same way — schedule it and stick to it. If you say that a Thursday afternoon is the time to make your special cookies, don’t run one more errand. Be at home with your child to make that memory. Read the books and tell stories from your own childhood holidays. Those moments mean so much more than perfect gift wrapping or the extra custom something or other.

Don’t apologize

Before you say, “Sorry,” to anyone about what you are not doing, stop yourself. Think about what you are doing, which is still quite a bit. Don’t feel guilt! There is absolutely no reason to apologize for pulling back and making sure the whole family is enjoying the season instead of the stuff. Who cares if your holiday cards don’t go out until Valentine’s Day or the wreath on the front door never quite gets a bow? Will anyone notice that the garland on the fence isn’t perfect?

The winter holidays are a wonderful time of the year. They are also an opportunity to run ourselves ragged. This year, pull back, prioritize, and focus on quality over quantity — and it might just be a happier holiday for the whole family.

Read more about holiday stress

Top 12 ways to beat holiday stress
6 ways to reduce holiday stress
Coping with holiday stress

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