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Enjoy the Holidays Without Stressing Out?

20161205_213737-1For many of us, women especially, enjoying the holidays without stressing out sounds like an oxymoron. Just about impossible.

I know it was for my mom for she stressed and worked herself to the point of exhaustion every Christmas.


She baked 35 or more varieties of cookies, nut and poppyseed rolls, and fruit cakes. Sure, our family enjoyed some of these goodies, though many were given as gifts.

My mom also went wild in decorating our house and made sure that every table top, door, window, lamp, hall bannister and posts were all decorated. My dad was responsible for the outside lights and setting up our fresh cut tree on top of a platform for our putz. I helped decorate the tree and then mom created our little village enclosed by my brother’s Lionel train.

Then, there was the shopping, gift wrapping, Christmas cards, homemade gifts she sewed or knit, dinners and parties with the table overflowing with food.

Except for my dad and me putting up the tree and the lights outside, she did everything else herself. By the time Christmas Eve arrived, she was completely exhausted, even sick.

I was surprised several years after she had passed to find myself repeating what my mom did and stressing out about it too. I made gifts, tons of pastries to give away, had parties for my parent and student volunteers at all my schools, decorated my tree and apartment, etc. etc. And yes, what was supposed to be fun became overwhelming as I didn’t have time to get it all done the way I’d planned.

Then one Thanksgiving holiday after I’d move away from home, I asked myself these questions, “Who am I trying to please? Who is this really for? Why am I doing all this? What do I enjoy? What’s important to me about the holidays?”

My answers helped me realize that I get to choose my own holiday traditions and create the holiday to please me.

Wow, did that take the pressure off. Instead of being stressed out trying to do too much to maybe please my friends, partner and co-workers, I got to do the things I enjoyed and made me happy. No more stressing out for me.

Since then the KISS acronym describes how I celebrate the holidays: Keep it simple and special.

So instead of decorating every nook and cranny in my apartment, I created a ritual celebration to decorate my tree for that’s my favorite part. I put on Christmas music and sing along. Since I’m not so great at stringing the lights, I call in my dad from the spirit world and ask for his help. I love rediscovering every ornament, some older than I am, and most representing a person dear to me. When I’ve placed each ornament in the perfect spot and the final paper snowflake is placed on the tree, I sit down, relax and marvel at its beauty.

Instead of feeling stressed by the holidays, I feel blessed.

If preparing for the holiday season often makes you feel stressed and overwhelmed, then here are some tips to help you enjoy them instead.

7 Tips to K. I. S. S. Your Holiday Traditions – Keep It Simple and Special:

1) Take a few minutes to reflect on what’s important to you about the holiday season. You might ask yourself: Who are you doing everything for? Who are you trying to please or impress? What do you enjoy about the holidays? What’s important to you about the holidays?

2) Let your responses guide you on which traditions to keep and those you are ready to let go for they no longer serve you and your family or lifestyle. (Perhaps you baked dozens of holiday sweets because your mom, grandmother or mother-on-law did but you end up throwing many of them away? With KISS, you only make one to two favorites and savor them.

3) Limit the number of traditions you choose to keep to only those that give you the most joy, pleasure and fun. (Maybe you love sharing a meal with your whole family for you love having everyone together). How that happens doesn’t matter.

4) Ask for help. Taking the meal example above, having dinner together doesn’t mean you have to stress out preparing the whole meal by yourself. Instead, ask other family members to bring a course, have it catered, or go out for dinner or brunch.

5) Delegate tasks. Decide on the holiday traditions you love to do and then get your family involved by delegating other essential tasks to them. It’s a great way to get the kids involved without having to stress out. (I started decorating our family tree as a little girl and loved it, because it made me feel important and helpful… and it was FUN!).

6) Enjoy the perfection of what you and your family create together. Let go of perfectionism and know the memories you create are more important than whether the star or angel on the tree top is straight.

7) Relax, enjoy and just be present in the moment!

Love & blessings,


P.S. I’d love to know if these suggestions help you, so reply back and let me know.

P.P.S. Thanks to Wendy Zeigler, Petaluma artist, for a photo of her tree. I don’t have mine up yet.


  1. Judy Michel says:

    As I read your newsletter, relating to the whole family tradition and the overwhelming feeling of the Holidays, I smiled at “KISS.” What a great idea. It is ok to “let stuff go” and make our own holiday tradition! Wow!

    Thank you Catherine!

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