Are you gasping for breath under the avalanche of to dos just thinking of the upcoming holidays?

guilt-free holidaysThe sweet remembrances of honored traditions can drag you into the pit of guilt robbing you of the promised “seasonal joy” with gifts to buy, wrap, and ship; cards to create, address, and mail; cookies to ice, package, and share; food to purchase, prepare and serve…..trees to decorate, parties to orchestrate, and family gatherings to plan, throwing yet another layer of uneasiness in the mix for most of us. Oh, the list of should dos driving the pangs of guilt deeper during this festive season, could go on endlessly.

Here are four easy “P” verbs to avoid in your holiday survival kit (I’m not fond of the emphasis on the negative, but it makes them easier to remember!)

Don’t Procrastinate:  We all know what lies in “waiting” for us. Get going as soon as possible. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do for yourself today. Don’t be a Scarlett. Scarlett O’Hara rationalized in Gone With the Wind, who didn’t want to face the unpleasantness of the situation proclaiming she would “deal with it tomorrow.” Scarlet echoed many of our thoughts in this overly-crammed season: “I’ll think about that tomorrow,” at Tara. “And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.” Tomorrow is another day, but the tasks remain. Take the pressure off yourself and just get started. Don’t be a Scarlet.

Don’t Perfect:  From childhood we drag the standard of excellence with us. How many times have we heard that if you can’t do something right, then don’t do it all? Our culture reinforces the striving for perfection. Magazine articles refer to the “perfect man,” the “ideal family” or instill a picture the “perfect Montana Christmas” complete with the freshly cut tree. We need to change our mindset. We are not perfect, nor will our holidays be without snags. Accept the imperfection, put up the artificially lit tree and call it good as you relax protecting your own peace of mind and happiness.

Don’t Perform:  This season is laden with traditions and social responsibilities. Some of these must dos are meaningful and valued, but some are merely long accepted rituals heavy with the burden of expectations. Here’s where your performance throws the pains of guilt going through meaningless time honored to dos. We must learn to weed out of our schedules, that which no longer serves us… thus removing our performances. Learn to disappoint people knowing that it is OK in order to protect your own happiness.

Don’t Please:  Guilt sponges like me absorb the entire responsibility of trying to fulfill everyone’s wish list. We are the first to raise our hands and volunteer to bring, coordinate or host. Trying to please others at your own expense drains your joy and lets the guilt settle in your weary soul. Don’t live to please others. Keep your hand in your pocket. Learn how to say “no”. After all: No is a complete sentence!

guilt-free holidaysThese upcoming holidays don’t have to be stress-filled days. They are meant to be enjoyed with family and friends. Remembering… or better forgetting all the “Ps”, (Procrastinate, Perfect, Perform and Please) choose your words carefully when talking to yourself and others. Drop the word “should” and replace it with “could” throwing a little less guilt on the festivities. By changing one little letter you can allow yourself more room for personal choice, removing the guilty feeling that accompanies those shoulds. Remember if you don’t control your holiday season… someone else will.

Here’s to your guilt-free holidays.