Tis the season…for losing your sanity over traditions that no longer serve your values.

There was a time (wasn’t there?) when you lit up with joy as the holiday season approached. The weather chilled, the coffee mugs and soup tureens warmed right alongside the very cockles of your heart as you waxed nostalgic for the Christmas of your youth and treasured the notion of passing down your family traditions.

So what happened?

These days, the brief moment you settled into the bliss of Pumpkin Sugar and Spice and everything nice was the last sigh of relief you had before you got swept up in the typical holiday frenzy.

Family in, family out, feasts, shopping, cards, holiday programs, holiday parties, cooking and planning. It all seems to fall to you so that smile pasted on your face is more phony than fantastic and you’re about to lose your grip!

You want to simplify but you’re terrified that the backlash will be more than you can handle so it just seems easier to eat your feelings than it does to institute any real changes. 

You’re not alone! According to the American Psychological Association, “Women are more likely than men to report an increase of stress during the holiday season. In addition, they have a harder time relaxing during the holidays and are more likely to fall into bad habits to manage their stress, like comfort eating.”

Rest assured, you CAN simplify your holiday season and it’s a lot easier than you think. (And partaking of snacks can be a joyful pleasure instead of a guilty one)

1. Express your wishes out loud

You’ve been mulling it over in your head for years: A simplified holiday would put the priorities back on time spent (instead of money spent) and it would create real and lasting memories. But if you just bring the hammer down and demand change defensiveness for what they’ve always known will be a knee-jerk reaction.

Give your family a chance to catch up. Ask them questions about their experiences. Maybe they’ve had similar experiences but couldn’t pinpoint it or put words to it. Enrollment keeps defensiveness at bay and increases the likelihood for their participation.

2. Get intentional

Set aside time with your family to ask them the following questions (parents answer too).

  • What are some of your favorite holiday memories?
  • What do you want to look back on from this point forward?
  • What are your least favorite holiday experiences?
  • What can we do to help everyone enjoy the holidays?

Adults and children alike are often surprised to see that the gifts are forgotten while the family interactions are cherished.

Use the answers to craft the ideal holiday experience for everyone.

I’ve walked many clients through this process and they’re always surprised at the results; as the holidays get simpler everyone gets happier. Even doubtful family members have found this to be true.

3. Make a commitment

You now have a gauge by which you can make your decisions. Want to stop feeling the need to go, go, go every night of the week? Consider that goal before saying “yes” to another party or event. How about that big family meal? If it meets your goals, keep it. If it doesn’t get cold cuts and spend the time to play games or take a hike.

Get curious, try some things on, be willing to get it a little wrong this first year. The more you embrace this as a fun experiment the quicker you’ll find a new tradition that works for everyone.

4. Stay in your lane

Others will always have a story about you. It doesn’t matter what you advocate for in your life, you cannot control others’ perceptions and that’s ok. Your story, your life and your family need your attention, so stop putting your energy in places where you don’t have control.

You can’t control what they believe about you and you can’t change it, so let it go
Besides, you might be surprised to find that your commitment to a happier holiday inspired someone else to do the same. Believe me, it happens all the time.

5. Celebrate your successes.

Stay present to the success you’ve created. You created extra bandwidth! Celebrate it. Out loud. Show the family how much better you feel about it. Feel conflicted? Share that too. Let your family see what it looks like to make a conscious choice instead of a default one, warts and all.

Change isn’t always easy but when you get off of your default and live purposefully it’s a different kind of success and you’re modeling for everyone around you.

The holidays are supposed to be about family, connection, peace and joy.

The only thing keeping you from that experience is a story in your head about what a “right” holiday experience is supposed to look like and worrying about what others think. It’s habitual, it’s not truth. You get to make the season whatever you want to make it. Even if your family balks at first when they look back and remember feeling treasured by a mom who is wholly present to their experience (because she’s not focused on the presents) they’ll know that more than appearances, more than reputation it was family that mattered most.

Shift your attention away from the presents you bring and toward the presence you bring and your entire holiday (and family) dynamic will change for the better.

Triffany helps high-powered women realize the dream of creating success and happiness in their professional and personal lives. The fastest way to start your intentional life is to use “The Squeeze” practice that helps you shut down the anxiety, get some good sleep and put your focus back on what you value most.

This article first appeared on YourTango