Making Your Holidays Happy Even When You Really Don’t Feel Like It

Does the following sentence send a chill down your spine?

holiday-stress682x260-280x250The holidays are coming.

If reading that made you break out in a cold sweat, then you’re like a lot of folks who find it difficult to be jolly when the holidays are crammed down your throat.

What if you could actually have a good time this holiday season, or at least not a crappy one?  Would you be interested? Then consider the following tips an early Christmas present:

Stop Attempting Perfection

Attempting to have “perfect” holidays is absolutely futile. You’ll never do it and this “failure” on your part will cause you to seethe and lash out at anyone within a 10-mile radius. I have found that this need for perfection has nothing to do with wanting to create a great holiday experience for your loved ones so much as it has to do with “keeping up with the Joneses.” Heck, not just keeping up with them but showing the world you’re better than the Joneses. Your cookies are more delicious AND you’ve made 12 different varieties ALL from scratch; Your decorations are not only the best on the block but worthy of being displayed in Rockefeller Center; your gifts are more expensive, your party more memorable and your family is 1000 times happier than any other family on the planet. Yeah right. Stop obsessing over perfection and start focusing on doing the best you can with what you have this year.

Stop Trying to Be a Herosay no

The holidays inspire people to say “yes” even when they want to say “no.” Are you nodding your head right now? (That was a trick question – you should have said no!) Seriously though, having too many commitments will lead to major resentment. Most of us are already walking around with a full plate, and then the holidays come around and we take on even more responsibilities because we don’t want to disappoint other people. But guess what? You don’t have to say yes to every holiday party or event. You don’t have to prepare an extra dish to pass when you really don’t have the time. And you don’t have to hand-write 300 cards and lick 300 stamps when you can send a mass-holiday e-card instead. Trying to take on too much is a surefire way to stress yourself out. You CAN say no. Consider this: how do we know Santa said “Ho, ho, ho?” Maybe he said, “No, no, no.”

Ask for Help

There’s a very good chance you share a home with other people who all have working hands and are perfectly capable of helping out, so why feel the need to do everything yourself? Who cares if the table is not set perfectly or the vacuuming wasn’t done up to your standards? Accomplishing weekly tasks is hard enough the rest of the year but nearly impossible during the holidays, so this year, ask the family to get their butts in gear and make all of the chores a fun family project.

burnt cookiesHave a Plan for Disasters

Most families have a plan should a natural disaster like a flood, hurricane or fire occur, yet most don’t have a plan for when familial disasters occur during the holidays, like when your mother-in-law has one too many glasses of Chablis and starts espousing her passive-aggressive opinions, or when your toddler accidentally flushes Uncle John’s hearing aid down the toilet.

It might be hard to plan for a hearing device being sent out to sea, but as far as how to handle tense family dynamics, have some strategies in place. Take a breath before launching into an attack with your mother-in-law and try and answer with a statement that won’t add fuel to a smoldering fire. Before your cousin’s kids can get hyped up on sugar and start running around the house breaking things, put away anything you don’t want them to get their grubby little hands on, or make some space out in the garage where they can run around like animals.

The point here is, you already KNOW what’s coming, so this year, why not plan for it?

Take Care of Your Mind by Taking Care of Your Body

Okay, don’t send me hate mail on this one, but some people treat the holidays the same way some women treat pregnancy – as a green light to eat absolutely anything they want. While I wholeheartedly think the holidays should be a time to indulge a little, I don’t support the theory they should be used as a “Get out of Common Sense Free” card. Too much sugar and processed food messes with our body chemistry and this can cause headaches, fatigue and an inability to deal with stress. If you find yourself cutting a third slice of pumpkin pie, ask yourself if you aren’t going off the deep end a little bit. Have fun, just not too much. And for the love of God, make sure you drink enough water every day.

Don’t Overspend

The only thing worse than being crabby during the holidays, is being anxious in January when the Visa bill arrives. Create a budget and stick to it, and don’t try and be a popular parent who spoils their children, but a responsible parent who teaches fiscal responsibility.

Don’t Take Idiots Too Seriously

As stressed out as you are, understand that pretty much everyone around you is stressed out, too. Don’t take others’ rudeness or snarkiness too personally. Instead, try to have a little compassion in the moment and offer some genuine holiday cheer. You just might turn someone’s bad day into a good one, and they in turn might be able to do the same for someone else.

Remember What the Holidays are Supposed to be About

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the superficial aspects of the holidays, some of which I’ve already mentioned, like keeping up with the Joneses and buying your family absolutely everything their hearts desire. But the real point of the holidays is to reconnect with your loved ones and strengthen your relationships. It is our friends and families that make the journey on this planet special and worthwhile, so use the holidays as a way of celebrating your love and gratefulness for having them in your life.

Now that we know how to make the holidays not suck, stay tuned for my upcoming post about not making New Year’s Resolutions you have no intention of keeping.


Devon is a Personal Life Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, licensed mental health/substance abuse counselor, experienced consultant, and nationally certified teacher.  As a Life Coach, she focuses on supporting and encouraging achievement of personal best outcomes or goals in a specific challenging area.  Her expertise, enthusiasm, energy and educational background serve to create a unique blend of services and techniques employed to help you reach your goals.  For training, coaching, or counseling sessions, please contact her at 505.469.0779 or