Christmas is not a race!

Recently a friend (and former marathon runner) posted on FB that she was “way behind on the holidays” which made me wonder if perhaps she was running some new kind of race. The holiday season can be a time of joy and wonder—just ask your kids—but, for many of us, it just becomes a long, stressful list of “must-do’s.”

Here are some tips for bringing the joy back into the holiday season:

Prioritize. The holidays are not meant to be a competition and you don’t need to do everything to be “successful.” Start with the tasks that are most interesting and important to you and cut out the things that aren’t essential and/or don’t bring you joy.

Focus on process as well as the product. As a child, my family tradition was to focus on preparing the perfect holiday meal at all costs. That meant lots of stress, lots of yelling, and the inevitable disappointment when everything didn’t come out looking, smelling and tasting perfectly. Holiday traditions should be fun, and yes, an expertly prepared turkey or a beautiful tree is nice, but these outcomes should be secondary to the joy of creating them.

Keep to your regular schedule (as much as possible). This is especially important if you have children. Humans, especially young ones, are creatures of habit. Abrupt changes in our eating and sleeping schedules can lead to irritability, stress and sleeping issues.

Follow your joy. You know why kids like the holidays so much? Because they naturally know how to follow their joy. Somewhere along the line most of us learned that our “shoulds” are more important than our wants. In the process we lost touch with the things really matter to us. Reflect on the things that you really savor about the holiday season and make some room in your busy schedule to indulge. Remember that happiness is contagious and the more you are engaged in activities that speak to your soul, the more you inspire others to do that same.

Nurture yourself. Self-care is not selfish! Make sure that you take time to rest, relax and do things that you enjoy. If you have difficulty doing this, just for yourself, remember your wellbeing will affect those around you as well. An overworked, stressed out mom, dad, sister, daughter, son and/or friend is rarely the life of the party.