Christmas Anxieties“Don’t sweat the holidays” is easier said than done, right?

It’s true, but it can become your mindset and strategy for enjoying this time of year that otherwise can feel like too much. You may be letting out a long slow breath saying: “I feel like I just took down my wreaths, tree, and garlands; is it really that time of year, again, already?”

The holidays can be a reminder of what’s missing and the tipping point of stress to an already more than demanding schedule. How can we maintain the magic of the season and let go of the little things that we sweat big time?

When my kids were in their school-aged years, I stayed home managing all things family-related. I could never understand how anyone could have a “bah-humbug!” attitude during the holidays because in our household it was all fun and good cheer.

We filled out the annual greeting cards. We spent time hunting for the perfect gifts for each other, for our friends, and stocking stuffers for our extended family. We looked forward to the magic of covering the house with lights (including a reindeer on the roof), decorating gingerbread houses, singing Christmas carols, baking cookies and attending holiday parties.

It was all so much fun, and in those days, it seemed I had all the time I needed to merrily get it all done. In fact, I thrived amidst the hustle and bustle and “ho, ho, ho!” of it all.

While life was picture-perfect then, life is vastly different now. I’ve been a widow and single mother for six years, I’m now a grandmother, and have adopted a full-time career taking over my husband’s legacy. My late husband Richard Carlson passed away without warning from a pulmonary embolism just before Christmas six years ago. I feared that the memory of this tragic event would shadow the holidays for our family.

Then, the following year in 2007, on the same day of December 13, our beloved golden retriever, Ty, died early, too. Needless to say, after two major losses, our family was feeling weary of the month of December.

Yet, our holiday spirit has prevailed, as we cherish the memories of such wonderful times we’ve shared as a family and refuse to buckle with cynicism.

Ways to embrace the holidays with cheer

While the last few years have been incredibly tough, there are a few techniques that I’ve come to learn that have helped me embrace this time of year.

1) Make small adjustments and not sweat the small stuff to make room for living the big stuff. Knowing that I have the power to choose helps me to maintain inner peace and equanimity. I’m committed to letting go of the small things that don’t feel right in the moment to make more room for more joy. I don’t buy into the idea that things have to be a certain way. My holidays are far more negotiable than that.

2) Most things that are not absolutely necessary for survival are negotiable. This is one of the greatest lessons I’ve come to learn through loss. Life is a roller coaster, and many things change in our lives during the year. For example, our income changes or our time expands or is limited based on what we have going on at work or in life in general. Our health can change, and our families spread out as the nest empties. The list goes on. As our lives change, it’s important to differentiate the extra activities of the season that bring you joy from those things that stress you out.

3) Carry forward family traditions that hold value for you today. This would have to be my best advice for enjoying this time of year, as it’s one that holds meaning for you. Go ahead and make an honest assessment of what you hold dear, and give yourself permission to make new choices based on your current evaluation, or valuation, if you will.

4) Question the activities that don’t serve you as a good helping of holiday happiness. This is a time to question anything that doesn’t resonate and add intrinsic value to your experience. Remember that you have the power to choose how you spend your time – at least your home time.

You can participate in those activities, parties, and traditions that allow you and your family to celebrate the season creating warm memories that work into schedule as it is now. Give yourself full go-ahead to delete the ones that you find are bringing a crease to your brow early in December, so you can be present to the ones you choose.

Anything that steals your happiness isn’t worth it, period. Embrace change, shift the way you do things, and move with the current of what’s going on in the ebb and flow of your life today. Be present to what feels right for you and your family, and let the small stuff go. Happy holidays are on the horizon!

During Christmas, it’s easy for us to compare our lives with others and dwell on what’s missing. However as Kristine pointed out, we all have a choice as to how we enjoy the holiday season – by embracing what we have and creating holiday cheer. Please do share with us what you do to enjoy this time of year that helps you not sweat the small stuff.

Kristine Carlson

Kristine Carlson

Kristine Carlson captivated readers worldwide with her first three "New York Times" bestsellers, "Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff in Love," "Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Women" and "An Hour to Live, An Hour to Love: The True Story of the Best Gift Ever Given." Expanding on the phenomenal success of her late husband Dr. Richard Carlson’s work, she is continuing to share the timeless wisdom of the “Don’t Sweat" philosophy and has written, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Moms” which will be released in spring 2012.

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