Having a hard time feeling joyous around the holidays? Here’s how you can reclaim the season in a way that’s more meaningful to you.


It was almost three years ago that I made the decision to reclaim Christmas morning.

It used to be that December 25 meant rising early, getting dolled up and meeting my mom for church, followed by brunch with my extended family. It was a wonderful tradition, but as my nuclear family grew, it became more and more stressful.

So I started saying no.

Christmas tree time is truly one of my favorite parts of the holidays (and of the year, actually). I could spend hours sitting by the tree, coffee in hand, admiring the lights. So that’s what we do now. We wake slowly, stay in our pjs, open presents and sit by the tree. It’s one of the ways I’ve started to protect my family—and myself—from the pressures of this busy season. Can you relate?

The fact is, so many factors come into play around this time of year. There are parties to attend, gifts to buy, old friends to see, distant family to host—and everyday life doesn’t slow down to accommodate. And if you talk with others about the holidays, you’ll likely hear a twinge of panic in their voices as thoughts run through their heads:

Will my family irritate my spouse?

Will my kids request expensive and elaborate gifts?

Will I overdo the indulgent food at our family gatherings?

It can be hard to feel centered and grounded in these moments, so here are a few strategies to help you navigate the hustle and bustle.

1. Make a family pact.

If you find gift giving with your extended family to be stressful and maybe a little silly, try coming up with a creative alternative. For example, promise to treat your nieces and nephews to experiences throughout the year, rather than presents on Christmas Day. You could also suggest buying gifts for a family in need instead. The idea of philanthropy is an alternative to traditional exchanges.

2. Commit to a percentage of invites—and toss the rest out.

One of the most stressful things about the holidays is the time drain. Holiday parties are lovely, but saying yes to all of them would mean saying no to things that are more valuable to you. Choose whatever percentage works best for you—10 percent, 50 percent—and go to those parties. Don’t worry about the rest.

3. Recreate a childhood memory.

Do you have many wonderful memories of sitting by the tree with your siblings at Christmas? Try to recreate that for yourself and your family. What holiday memory do you cherish most? Was it baking cookies with your grandma? Singing carols with friends? Bring it back. If you can’t think of any, consider creating new holiday rituals. Ultimately, this is meant to be a cherished, memory-making season.

Create a plan that allows you to do just that.

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Regan Walsh is an NYU-certified life coach and speaker who focuses on helping women who are over-programmed and underwhelmed, reclaim their lives, both personally and professionally. She is located in Columbus, Ohio and coaches women from all over the world. Regan contributes to Harvard Business Review and Forbes, and has been featured in FAST Company,  Elite Daily, Bustle, Smart Business, and Columbus CEO.