The holidays can be a mixed bag for many people. Some people love everything about them, from the shopping to the cooking to the bursting social calendar. Some people are hurting because they’ve suffered a loss that feels all the more present with the holes at the table. Some people feel stress because there is more to do than they could possibly fit in a day or a month. There is endless variety in how we experience these weeks.

I’ve spent years working toward a sweet spot of enjoying the holiday spirit but not getting overwhelmed by all there is to do. I don’t have it down pat, but I’ve landed on some key strategies that de-stress my holidays and make a big difference. They sound deceptively simple, but they yield happy returns! Pick one or two and give them a shot!

Key strategy #1: Stop everything and consider how you want to look back on these holidays.

What would you like to feel/think when you remember the holidays of 2016? How can you make that happen? Take 5 minutes and jot down some responses to these questions. (Seriously, play along here…they will wake up creative space in your brain, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the shifts in your thinking…and the way your brain will start to hone in on a new perspective that’s lighter and brings you freedom.)

Key strategy #2: Give yourself permission to simplify. 

What can you say no to? How can you simplify what you’ve said yes to? If you are having friends over, how can you simplify the menu or the shopping or whatever so you can enjoy the process of preparing? Everyday, think “How can I simplify this day?” Do you really need to do everything on your list? You get 80% of your results from 20% of what you do. How about giving yourself permission to peel away everything but the key tasks and events and see if that frees you up to put the joy back in your holidays? I bet it will!

Key strategy #3: Choose your focus. 

What really matters to you this season? What emotion do you want to feel the most? Let go of anything that leads you away from that feeling…and/or brainstorm ways you can create that feeling. Who do you want to show up as today and tomorrow and the next day? A stressed out mom who has no patience for her kids? Or a mom filled with hugs and love and snuggles and tickles because she took time for a bubble bath to unwind? When you focus on who you want to show up as, your brain kicks into making some key distinctions and choices that lead you to your best self.

Key strategy #4: Slow down. 

Consider again what really matters. You want the most important people in your life to feel loved and cherished, right? Is one more gift what they really need to feel that from you? Or is it your full-on presence in their life? Is there an hour you can carve out that could be about just the two of you enjoying each other’s company? When you slow down, you allow the space to be present and notice and enjoy the little things.

Key strategy #5: Reach out. 

Whose life can you touch during these holidays in a way that will change the experience of the holidays for them? Can you visit a senior center and sing with your kids? Can you buy a few gifts for an Operation Santa for children who wouldn’t otherwise have them? Can you reach out to a neighbor who seems stressed or lonely? When you choose to be the source of an emotion (like love or appreciation), you get to feel that emotion yourself. And activities like these remind you of the the richness of your life. (Caution: Do NOT use this one to beat yourself up or guilt yourself into doing something you just don’t have the bandwidth for. If this idea resonates for you, do it. If not, let it go! You are doing enough. You are enough just as you are.)

Key strategy #6: Embellish your moments.

What are the things that get you in the holiday spirit? I love Christmas songs, so when I cook for our annual neighborhood holiday stroll, I play music I love and imagine people loving the food and how pretty it’s going to look. I turn on our fireplace because it adds to the cozy feel. I sip tea, which tells my brain I’m in relaxation mode. I add the simple embellishments that mean I will enjoy these moments when otherwise I might rush through them feeling stressed by all I need to get done.

Whatever you do, please give yourself permission to be less than perfect. This will be a serious de-stress waterfall! There are approximately 1000 ways in which I am less than perfect. If I choose to focus on all those ways, I can make myself pretty miserable. But if instead I choose to focus on creating joy wherever in my life I can — in little and big ways, I have found that that is a completely different ballgame that leads to completely different results!

EnJOY your holidays, my sweet friends.

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