How to Stay Sane & Enjoy the Holidays

I've done it in the car, at a party and even on Christmas Eve while my whole family waited downstairs. No matter how much I prepare, I always wind up wrapping presents at the last minute. It happens that way with most of my holiday plans; I start strong out of the gate but by mid-December, my holiday enthusiasm has begun to wane.

For a few weeks, being over-scheduled and overtaxed feels exciting, a whirlwind of activity. Suddenly, the sparkly curtain falls away to reveal a lot of to-dos that haven't been done, and the entire holiday begins to just feel like...well, like work.

I wouldn't call it the blues necessarily, more like the mean reds and greens. There are the obligatory parties that you'd really rather skip and the grueling travel days to get somewhere you might not even want to go. Between holiday stress and family squabbles, this time of year can be a real minefield, compounded by the fact that you're "supposed" to feel merry and thankful 24/7. It's enough to make anyone snap.

So what do you do when you feel a Scrooge moment coming on? Deep breaths are good; a bath is nice. But allow me to propose a simple idea that may very well change your life: say no. "I'm sorry, former co-worker's cousin, I can't make it to your party that night. Thanks very much for the kind invitation."

We all have obligations and commitments, but I suspect that, like me, you're not always as "obligated" as you think. I often feel so tightly wound that every task, every invitation feels like a challenge in a game of "how to do and be everything while wearing a cute outfit." But games are supposed to be fun, remember?

Peace on Earth? Maybe that peace should begin with your calendar and your credit card bill. For many, the holidays are a wonderful time to lavish expensive gifts and cook ten-course meals, but they don't have to be. It's okay to let some things fall by the wayside and focus your time and energy on the things you really do cherish and love about the holidays. You have permission; I'm giving it to you right now.

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