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Why Embracing Holiday Madness Is the Only Way to Stay Sane

By planning ahead and taking some of the pressure off ourselves, we can be more present and take joy in the moments that matter the most this time of year. Here is how this can be achieved.
12/10/2015 12:18pm ET | Updated December 10, 2016
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The holiday season is more than just busy -- it's chaotic. The seemingly endless to-do list can be overwhelming for many, especially when you consider the emotional and financial burdens that come along with it.

When it comes to such stress, the way some tend to handle it is by not dealing with it at all. Procrastination sets in and -- let's face it -- feels pretty darn good until the week before Christmas. Suddenly, it's game time and there's no more putting it off. But is the payoff for delaying the inevitable holiday rush really as great as we think?

The reality is it actually takes more energy to procrastinate and put off our annual holiday duties than it would to simply jump in and take care of them. Resistance is much more exhausting than we realize and can actually deplete us of the energy needed to make progress. Instead of wasting time dreading the holidays, spend your days embracing them. After all, we can't get out of the holidays, so why not get into them?

By planning ahead and taking some of the pressure off ourselves, we can be more present and take joy in the moments that matter the most this time of year. Here is how this can be achieved:

1. Set a budget -- Financial stress is quite common this time of year, so if you are feeling the pinch know that you are not alone. Establish a budget early that is within your means. Doing so will enable you to know for certain what you can and cannot spend and make it easier to stay on track. Knowing this upfront will help alleviate stress and make your holiday shopping more enjoyable.

2. Give up the idea of perfection -- If you are feeling the pressure to get everything done on time, perfectly and without error -- please stop yourself there. While you should continue to work toward your holiday goals, remain focused on progress, not perfection. Start with what's in front of you and drop the expectations, worries and judgment. It's not life or death, it's just a task. Giving yourself permission to surrender to a less-than-perfect standard is the hard part, but once you do that you will likely get results that exceed even your own expectations.

3. Avoid overwhelming goals -- Why do we do this to ourselves? Every year, we declare that this will be the year that we master Julia Child's Beef Bourguignon recipe, commit exclusively to DIY gifts made by hand or boast about the handwritten holiday cards (complete with a comprehensive family update) to be sent to the more than 100 relatives on your mailing list. These are great goals and while they might be something to strive for, the odds of each one happening are simply not good. So why do we set ourselves up for disappointment? Instead of trying to be everything to everyone at the holidays, think about what the best use of your time is and how you will get the most out of it. If your answer includes spending quality time with Mastering the Art of French Cooking then be my guest, but don't let these lofty ideas dictate (or ruin) your happiness.

4. Work toward visible progress -- Visible results serve as instant gratification and can be a motivator for many. Find ways to reflect and see your progress visibly. The age-old checklist is one way to achieve this. The feeling you get from checking a daunting task off your to-do list is incredibly liberating and will give you the sense of accomplishment needed to get even more scratched off your list.

If we want to truly enjoy this time of year, we must learn to get wholehearted and embrace the imperfect moments that come along with all the good the season brings. Let's work to silence our inner critics and, instead, focus on doing the best we can with what we have always knowing that tomorrow is another day. It may seem counterintuitive, but adopting such a mindset will make all the difference when it comes to surviving and enjoying the holidays.

Yes, it's a busy time of year. But you are smart. You are capable. And most importantly, you've got this.