The Holidays are Stealing your Joy. It’s Time to Take It Back.

Yes, you heard me right. And no, I’m not competing for “Pessimist of the Year” or plotting against Santa.

If you’ve done everything you were supposed to by this time, the holidays will be filled with joy and warmth and unicorn-like moments where you find yourself peacefully surrounded by perfectly wrapped gifts, a family that thinks you’re Ms. M Stewart herself, and a lovely glass of that Pinot Noir you splurged on with your fat holiday bonus.

I called Maury. That is a LIE.

Let’s look inside the snow globe of the average life of a real human in December…

End of year performance reviews, 32.5 holiday parties evolving from work, family, friends, and networking groups. Perfectly wrapped gifts needed for every interaction, cookie swaps, the unopened box of holiday cards waiting to be sent. Daily commute and a zillion holiday errands in the snow. Entertaining, imbibing for survival, eating as a sport. Competitive decorating. Suffocating guilt, anxiety, and crippling shame for not being more prepared. That flu that’s going around. Crowds. Family. And most likely, managing a mini life (or lives) with a hellish list of tiny obligations they're not capable of handling themselves.

Most of us are just trying to survive. And in the process, we’re losing the magic the holidays are supposed to inspire. The authentic joy of sharing time with loved ones, showing our gratitude, and reflecting on the gift of having lived another year.

Here’s the good news: we still have time to get it right in 2017.

It’s time to release the need for perfection. Trust me, you are not meant to live up to a commercialized version of what the perfect holidays look like. Confession: I typically resembled that crazy blonde from the Target commercials before my retirement from the Holiday Perfectionist Olympics. Here's what I learned, and want to pay forward to you: Getting in control of the chaos will reduce anxiety and give your mind and heart the freedom to truly enjoy what really matters to you.

Here's a simple way to create an anchor in a swirling sea of holiday obligations:

List all the things swimming around in your brain. Everything you feel obligated to do, attend, buy, bake, wrap, and send. If it’s helpful, organize by work, family, friends, charity, and entertaining.

Highlight the things that make the holidays truly meaningful for you and your loved ones. Circle the things that if not done, would negatively impact your professional brand or personal relationships.

Schedule the highlighted and circled tasks/events, etc. over the next week – you don’t have to do it all in one day. Make the time to enjoy them.

Categorize the remaining things as “non-essential”. These are the things that if you do find the time and/or money for, you can do joyfully instead of with obligatory dread.

Now breathe. Go pour that glass of wine and sit by the fire. You’ve GOT this.

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