We’re about to head into what is likely your busiest time of the year, and yet songs joyfully remind us that it’s THE most ‘wonderful’ time of the year.

Most people wouldn’t agree.

Expectations for the holiday season seem to grow exponentially each year, but in reality, all you need to do is to just drive to your local shopping center one Saturday afternoon in December and no doubt you’ll witness cars driven by impatient drivers, and lineups filled with frustrated and exhausted customers (you’re probably one of them!), and parents who are beside themselves trying to deal with kids who have ‘sugarplums’ dancing in each and every store they demand to enter.

So what to do?

Well, I’d like to draw upon the “Stop, Look, and Listen” slogan that many of us were taught earlier in our lives when learning to cross a busy road, and I would argue that it applies in this situation as much as it did back then.

First, the “Stop” part of the slogan can remind us to take a breather to remember what the holiday is all about in the first place.

Does it have to be all about creating the perfect holiday season for all those we love? And, if so, who’s putting on the pressure? You? Or someone else?

Whomever it is, I’d suggest that you to pull everyone together – in person, by phone, email, Skype, or text – and decide that you’re going to do this year differently, and without all the pressure that you’ve all experienced previously.

Brainstorm with one another about how you might be able to REALLY enjoy this time of year, but without the usual fuss and ‘over-the-top’ gift-giving and dinner preparations that take weeks prior to the event(s) to organize.

It’s a challenge that might just bring you all together because it opens up a discussion that people normally want to have, but feel guilty about initiating it.

Next, is the ‘Look” part, and here I’d suggest you take some time to ask yourself how you might take care of yourself during this hectic time of year. If you make that a priority, you’ll likely feel considerably less burnt by the end of the year.

Remember, if you do what’s right for you, it’ll be right for everyone else (and conversely, if you do what’s wrong for you, it’ll also be wrong for everyone else).

So set some time aside for self-care in your ‘off-duty’ moments (e.g., exercise; meditation; taking a nap…yes, they’re allowed, especially in December; sleeping in a little later on the weekend; reading a book in bed, taking a bubble bath; letting up on making complicated dinners…opt for casual, easy-to-fix meals for the month, and so on).

Finally, the “Listen” part of the slogan. Listen to your instincts about the previous two parts, the ‘Stop’ and the ‘Look’, and make sure that you’re not folding to pressure, from either within you or from outside of you.

Remind yourself that you, and those with whom you’ll be sharing this time of year, need to listen to one another so that you can negotiate a way to actually experience this time of year as being as wonderful as it can be – something that has very little to do with a perfectly-set table, and dozens of presents under the tree.

It really means appreciating that you’re all together in a world that reminds us daily that that’s the greatest gift of all because it can no longer simply can’t be taken for granted.

What about you? Do you stress over the holidays or are you going to use the “Stop, Look, and Listen” technique this year?

Author's Bio: 

I am an Adlerian-trained psychotherapist in West Vancouver in a private practice, and I work with individuals, couples, and families. I’m committed to providing the highest level of service to all my clients.

I believe each of us needs to discover our own creative solutions to the challenges we face in our lives, but there are times when we’re unable to identify these solutions because our vision is sometimes narrowed, or even blocked, by the issues we struggle with on a daily basis. When clients are unsure about what actions to take, we work together to identify potential solutions. Ultimately, clients need to make the best decisions for themselves, and ideally ones that are informed by a growing relationship they’ve developed with their own inner voice.