Can you feel it?

The holiday spirit is already in the air.

Billed as “the most wonderful time of the year,” the holiday season represents warmth, fun, and joy.

But for many, the season is often experienced as a time of stress and excess. If you’ve struggled to fully experience all the joys the holiday season has to offer, here are three steps to ensuring that this season will be beautiful and bright:

1. Set good boundaries

This may be the most important step you can take to eliminate stress during the holidays.

With so many tasks demanding your time and attention, maintaining a sense of balance and well-being requires you to make some hard choices ahead of the season.

How much money are you willing to spend on gifts? Who will you spend your time with? What are you willing to sacrifice to get things done?

For example, if others are expecting you to plan the office holiday party all by yourself for the third year in a row, it may be time to gently push back by inviting others to help.

If you find yourself feeling angry or resentful toward a best friend because you blew past your spending limit—and they didn’t return the favor, then it might be time to reconsider your spending habits and motivations.

If you find yourself spending more time at the mall than with the people you’re shopping for, it may be time to reconsider how you’re spending your time.

2. Practice self-compassion

As wonderful as the holidays are, we all know that it can be filled with emotionally intense moments, especially with family members who you may only see once or twice a year.

If you find yourself growing restless, tense, or angry around the dinner table, take a moment to breathe and be kind to yourself.

Understand that these moments are normal, but not permanent. They will pass.

The key is just learning to expect these feelings and deal with them as they arise.

If you’re finding it difficult to maintain a sense of self-control, consider a short phrase that you can say to yourself like, “it’s going to be ok” or “I forgive you” or “This too shall pass.”

3. To really eliminate stress…focus on experience over outcomes

I’d be willing to bet that most of our pain and disappointment during the holidays center around unmet expectations.

The holidays are all about the perfect meal, the perfect gift, the perfect moment. But the rest of the year is anything but perfect and the holiday season is no different.

So how you can minimize the impact of your need for perfect outcomes? Focus on the experience. I hear you saying, “But what if the experience I want is perfection?”

What if “perfection” is simply experiencing life as it unfolds?

The best holiday present is presence

As this holiday season unfolds, resolve to focus less on presents and more on presence.

Be present to yourself and your own needs.

Be present to the needs of others.

Do these and you’ll be on track to experiencing your best holiday season yet.


Cylon is a spiritual chaplain, musician, devoted husband, and busy dad of seven. He blogs about practical spiritual tips for living well at Spiritual Living For Busy People - sign up and get his free guide 20 Little Tricks To Instantly Improve Your Mood Even If You Feel Like Punching Something (or Someone) You can also purchase his book Self-Love: How to Love Yourself Unconditionally

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