As the holidays approach, I’m feeling a little Scrooge-y. I love the lights and the anticipation and seeing family members, but I can get really bah humbug as December wears on. Maybe it’s because I’m juggling work and my children’s schedules, or maybe it’s the change in time (my gosh, it is dark early). This year, I am trying to hit the reset button and focus on what the holidays stand for. I want to see the best in my fellow humans and spread love.

When I chat with my parent friends, though, I hear a familiar refrain: “It’s all too much! Too many parties, too much pressure to decorate the house and too many gifts. I am exhausted, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone.” These parents want to have a nice season, but they feel overwhelmed, beaten down and, frankly, a little bullied by the expectations.

It’s a lot. And we could all use more joy and less stress, right? So let’s unpack how we can simplify things and get some joy going.

1) Gifts

You are all set to enact a less-is-more policy for gifts, and then you see the Santa letter filled with the latest toys, technology, on-trend clothes and sporting goods. A little voice begins to whisper sweet insecurities in your ear. Maybe you feel as though you didn’t get many gifts when you were growing up. Maybe you were spoiled rotten. Maybe gifts were given with a dose of guilt. Maybe gifts were distributed unfairly in your family. Maybe times were once good and then went bad. Regardless, we all have stories around giving and receiving, and most of them aren’t healthy or helpful.

It may sound strange, but talk to a friend about it. Say, “I really want to stop the excess, but this is my worry.” Expressing something aloud takes away its power. And you will hear that other people have their own emotional hang-ups, and that will make you feel better.

To keep yourself honest, hang up a big sheet of paper. List those four famous gift categories (something you want, need, wear and read). If your children can read, have them add their ideas for gifts. If they can’t read, fill it out with them. Writing the gift ideas keeps everyone honest. And when you have purchased your gifts (one from each category), stop.

If you are reading this and you have already gone overboard, no worries. It is not too late to do a course correction. Choose the gifts that you know will light up your child’s world and bring true joy. The others can be tucked away and repurposed as birthday gifts for your child or even another child.

– Meghan Leahy

Read more: 3 Ways to Rein in Excess of the Holidays

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