With the calendar flipping through November, we have officially hit the “most wonderful time of the year.” Truth is, it isn’t always wonderful. While the holidays should be a time for family togetherness and personal reflection, it sometimes doesn’t turn out that way. An over-scheduled calendar, demanding relatives, and financial strain can make what should be a merry season not so merry. The good news is holiday stress doesn’t have to take over. Here are some intentional ways to approach the holiday season so it is, indeed, a happy time of meaning and magic for you and your kids.

Think about years past

With an unfiltered lens, think back to past holiday seasons, and what went well and what went not so well. What traditions do you want to keep? What traditions is your family outgrowing? Make this year intentional.

Think about how you want to feel

Typically, we start the holiday season trying to see what we can fit in, and that’s not ideal because you end up feeling cruddy at the end of it all. Do you want to feel peaceful? Grateful? Celebratory? Whatever it is, think about how you want to feel and what pieces of past holidays fit and don’t fit into that. Don’t be afraid to look at what other people do, too. If you like a tradition another family has created, use it for your own. Think about what experiences will give you and those you love the feelings that you actually want to have as opposed to the feelings that we don’t want to have that we may not be disciplined enough to say “no” to.

Define your limits

Say you get three invitations to holiday parties that are all on the same Saturday night, and you feel obligated to attend all of them as you have in years past because you care about those people equally. This year, you chose to feel peaceful this holiday season, so you may want to linger at a party, so you’ll need to politely decline. On the other hand, if you have chosen celebratory, you may want to attend all three. It’s all about aligning how you want to feel with the choices you’re making.

Set boundaries and expectations

Sometimes people disturb our peace, and sometimes we’re related to those people. Keep two phrases in mind to counter any of those situations that may come your way. If someone were to ask you an impossible or inappropriate question, just say, “Why do you ask?”. This will put the question back on them to reflect as to why they really want to know. You could also respond with the fact that you don’t think it’s an appropriate question. Neither of these responses are inflammatory, and both of them preserve your healthy mental state and redirect the focus.

Take a time-out

Things may still get hectic, and typically what we do when we get busy is say we’ll take care of ourselves in a month. Truth is, we’ll be so exhausted in a month that we won’t be able to, so it is important to take care of yourself throughout the process. A lot of times, mom is the one who sets the barometer for the whole family, so if you’re not taking care of yourself, everyone may fall apart. To avoid this, try to take at least 30 minutes a day to take care of yourself. That could be waking up 30 minutes earlier to enjoy some peace and quiet or taking a walk, but whatever it is, make sure that every day has an element to it that is just about taking care of you. And what’s more meaningful and magical than that?

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