“Expectation is the root of all heartache.”   ~ William Shakespeare

In the past, I’ve given workshops on how to survive the holidays and manage your time so that you aren’t completely stressed and overwhelmed. They have included some really great strategies and tips. But when it all boils down to it, there is one tip that is indispensable and if you can implement my number one holiday planning tip, everything else will immediately seem less stressful and you’ll enjoy your holidays a lot more. So what is it? It’s the same tip I’d give for living a joyous life all year long…  Let go of expectations, especially those that are thrust upon you by external forces and instead set an intention for this holiday season to live in the present moment by staying focused on what’s truly important to you.The main reason we get so stressed during the holidays is that we place these crazy, unrealistic expectations on ourselves. Instead of staying focused on what is really important to us, we get caught up in the glitz and glamour of shopping, baking, entertaining, gifts, etc. Which are all great – if you really want to do them, but if you are only doing those things because you think you should, then that is where the stress starts to come into play. Step back from the pressures and expectation to go to every holiday party you’re invited to, buy gifts for every person you know and perform like Martha Stewart by having your house decorated to the hilt with a spread of food on your table that looks like it just came out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Unless of course, it’s what you really WANT to do. And instead, focus on what’s most important to you this holiday season. Here’s how to implement this one essential tip in order to create peaceful, stress free holidays:

  1. Focus on what is most important to you this holiday season, not what you feel you “should” do. Evaluate and take note of what you value most.
  2. Let go of what others think. The expectations that usually cause us the most trouble are those that we’ve created for ourselves based on what other people will think. (AKA – external expectations.) Ask yourself this question, “Am I placing more value on what other people think then I am on the things I truly value most?” If that’s the case, then it’s time to let go of what others think and put your values at the top of the list.
  3. Give yourself permission to eliminate the things that aren’t at the top of the list. This is one of the hardest parts because we are conditioned and driven to do things based on guilt caused by “shoulds”. But if that’s the only reason you are doing something, then it’s time to give yourself permission to take it off your list. Only allow things on your holiday planning list that are in alignment with what you value most.
  4. Set the intention for yourself that you will live in the present moment and stay focused on what’s truly important to you.

For me, what’s most important during the holidays are: family, faith, close friends, peace, relaxation, love, and joy. And as long as I don’t lose sight of these things when I’m setting my intentions and planning for the holidays, all is well. If you can follow the steps above, and only plan your holidays around those things you value most, you can rest assured that your holidays will be merry and bright too! Whatever holiday you are celebrating this year, be sure you are celebrating what’s important to you. Not the ideas or expectations of the holidays but truly the important things. Comment below to share your favorite holiday tip for a peaceful and joyous holiday season.