How to Have the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Without the Stress

How do we make the holiday season what we want it to be without killing our joy in the process?The holiday season can make you want to pull your hair out. If this time of the year leaves you feeling more “bah, humbug!” than “merry and bright,” we’ve got some self-care tips for you!

I love Christmas. I always have. I love the holiday season, I love Christmas music, and I anxiously wait for Christmas each year.

But I often find myself collapsing the day after Christmas out of sheer exhaustion.

Related: Surviving (and Enjoying!) the Holidays as a Breastfeeding Mom

As mothers, we tend to want to make the season perfect for our children. I know I dreamed of picture-perfect holiday scenes with my little guy, and the age of social media has allowed me to see how a million other people on the planet make the holiday great for their family. I typically feel inadequate, rushed and unable to really focus on what I want my family and I to focus on during the season.

So what do we do? How do we make the holiday season what we want it to be without killing our joy in the process?

1. First, and most importantly, we need to set expectations.

Setting expectations for every part of the holiday season will help you create boundaries that will allow you more joy.

Decide what you want out of the season. Decide how much time you want just your nuclear family to spend together, and recognize how much the in-laws and extended family want to be included as well. Often, just having a discussion with in-laws and extended family where you all lay out what you’d like the holiday to look like and then work together to make it as close to that as possible will help eliminate anxiety about how to fairly divide your time up.

2. Don’t feel obligated to do everything that is available during the season.

Yes, there are great shows and programs and holiday fairs and events, but the reality is that it’ll be impossible to get to all of them, and you really don’t want to anyway. I’m pretty sure we can all agree dragging children from one fun event to another in the name of family fun may not always be the magical time we see in our heads, so why do we bother to do it? Instead, take a few minutes to look at what offerings December has, and pick, minimally, what is most important for you to be part of.

If getting together with friends for gift exchange and dinner is an annual tradition for you and your kids, pencil that in one weekend, and don’t schedule anything else. When that ‘free’ time comes up during the weekend, you’ll feel free enough to take something on if you choose, but not feel obligated if you’d just like to take the day with your family to watch Christmas movies and bake cookies. Despite our very nature to do so, try underscheduling this year and see what a difference that makes in your attitude toward each weekend and holiday event.

Related: Me Time is a Must: 6 Ways to Put Self-Care on Your Holiday To-Do List

3. Draw boundaries within family situations.

If large families with large expectations for gift exchanges make you sweat, talk with your family members and say you just have to tone it back and draw names. The reality is they probably will be glad for the scale-back as well, and then more time and effort can be put into thoughtful gift exchanges. When it comes to time spent with family, while it’s important to remember that your family loves you and wants to be part of traditions they’ve always been a part of, it’s okay to tell them that you and your family are making your own traditions and would love to find a way to incorporate old with new.

While it may easy to allow guilt to guide our actions in the holiday season, gently standing up for what we want in tough situations will in the end, make the season more enjoyable for us and our family.

As the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

Allow yourself to set boundaries and expectations for those you love and things you love to do, and you’ll find yourself singing along, full of relaxed joy and permission to do so.

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