There just aren’t enough weeks before Christmas, are there? Of course, you’ve been thinking about it since late in the summer. You’ve walked through the house considering how you’ll decorate differently this year, been to several craft fairs to pick up unique decorations you’ll be able to use, spent several hours on Pinterest borrowing ideas … and that’s just the house. There’s also the long list of sweets you plan to bake, new outfits and haircuts so the kids are ready for the photo for this year’s card, finding a new holiday dress, a new dressing recipe for the turkey … oh and you can’t forget you’re hosting Christmas Eve, so you’ve got to get the house ready … and will you be able to replace the faucet in the guest bathroom in time … and no matter what you do, that Martha Stewart type next door is going to make it all look amateurish by comparison, so what’s the point anyway?

Breathe. Breathe again. I know you want to achieve the perfect holiday celebration, with the perfect meal and the perfect house, but I have to tell you that kind of perfection just doesn’t exist.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost sight of what the holidays are all about. It seems like you’ve turned your holiday into some kind of competition. Instead of trying to outdo everyone else and driving yourself into a frenzy in the process, give yourself permission to say no to perfection, and concentrate on creating a holiday you and everyone else will enjoy. Does Martha next door have a spectacular house for the holidays? Good for her … and who really cares?

This year, don’t focus on fashion and frills. Concentrate on fun. Martha would never string up popcorn and cranberries for her Christmas tree, but one day, your kids will be doing the same with your grandkids because they remember how much fun they had. Nor would she allow the kids to touch the tree, because they lack her perfect eye for decorating and coordination. Big deal! Let the kids handle the decorating and enjoy their laughter. Smile if the top of the tree lacks ornaments because they couldn’t reach that far. Cook up cocoa and cookies together.

Trying to determine when you can get out and buy that new holiday dress? Nobody will notice if you wear that beautiful green one again this year (and if someone does point that out, knock her off your invitation list for the future). Instead of putting out a dinner that looks like it’s from Downton Abbey, cook something simple everyone will enjoy, and you’ll have more fun to enjoy it, too. Mom didn’t make green bean casserole every Christmas because she lacked imagination or better recipes — she made it because it was easy and everyone liked it!

The less you do to work on the holidays and the more you do to enjoy them, the better the memories you’ll create for everyone. You’ll also discover you have less stress and you won’t be as hard on yourself for failing to attain perfection. And when you’re in a better mood, something funny happens: your husband and kids will have more fun, too.

Would it be wonderful to have a house for the holidays that looked like it came out of the pages of a magazine? Maybe, but wouldn’t you rather have a holiday everyone remembered because they had such a great time? Wouldn’t you rather create the kinds of traditions everyone will treasure and look forward to? Stop aiming for perfection and start focusing on joy. And if you don’t think you can handle holiday stress, give one of our counselors a call.

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