The other day on twitter, I asked my ‘tweeps’ to help me come up with some good blogging topics. I was completely stumped and felt like the press of the holidays was doing more to demotivate me than anything else.

Andrew Knight from the University of North Dakota and of the Music Therapy Research Blog Podcasts suggested that I write about how the holidays bog me down. It was perfect because I was struggling to put pen to paper to discuss the holidays since they are not my favorite time of year.

It takes until December 20th(today!)  for me to really get thinking about Christmas. I enjoy Thanksgiving and the food and family, but Christmas always seems to creep up on me no matter how much I try to prepare. In the meantime I am left feeling like I should be doing something which I a) either should be doing or b) can’t for various reasons do at the time. I’ve always felt a lot of expectation swirls about the holidays and I tend to get so nervous and meeting and living up to it that I tend to just forget about it.

That isn’t to say that my music therapy sessions aren’t holiday themed! I am actually relatively proud of myself this year for pulling out Christmas music before Thanksgiving and getting to work on prepping it and activities. I actually think that part of what has kept me chugging along through the past month has been my preparedness this year!

It is in honor of the holidays and their overwhelming weight on my person and psyche that I present to you 3 ways to help manage stress and keep your sanity through this holiday season.

1) Know when to say no. I see this happen a LOT! You say okay, it’s just one more party, or one more gift to wrap, or one more drive to make. But the real question is: What does that make your list of to-do’s total to? Each of us has a different threshold, so don’t feel bad that you aren’t baking 26 Chess Cakes because Mary down the street is. Mary down the street might not have the things going on in her life that you have in yours! Set your priorities for this holiday season and do only those things. Stay home and put your feet up tonight if that party isn’t one of them!

2)Don’t forget to gift yourself. Yes it is the season of giving, but be sure to give yourself a present as well. You’ve worked hard all year and now you are working even harder to see family and friends and celebrate. Get yourself that pedicure you’ve been saying no to, buy new strings for your guitar and a bottle of wine, go buy that power tool you’ve been drooling over at Northern Tool. Giving yourself something to enjoy and look forward to this time of year is just as important as any other.

3) Simplify your Holidays. Look at what you want to do this holiday season and try to simplify it. Do you send out cards? Does each one need a personalized note and to be hand made? No. Simplify it! How about the 10 different dinner parties? Why not have one big pot luck? Shopping stress? Do it online or make plans to buy throughout the year so that everyone is already taken care of. By simplifying the things that are important to you, you’ll relieve a great deal of stress on yourself.

My example? Because of financial reasons, we can’t visit my family this Christmas. Instead I met them halfway for lunch this past weekend! Everyone was happy, we had a good meal, got to see each other and swap gifts (which unfortunately, mine had been stolen but that’s okay!). I was sick for a Christmas party earlier in the month and I didn’t go. I plan on doing a good deal of cooking this week, but nothing stressful.

So with me, take a deep breath and let it out!