'Tis the Season to Make it Small: Tips and Tricks to a Happier Holiday

Do the holidays stress you out? And even worse do you feel like you are not allowed to be overwhelmed because you are supposed to be happy and enjoy every moment?

Getting everything done and trying to make it ‘perfect’ can really make the holiday not so joyous. It can actually make you more stressed out than you normally are.

An article from Carolyn Gregoire states, “At the holidays, the pressure of trying to do everything — plan the perfect holiday, make it home to see your family, say yes to every event, meet those year-end deadlines — can be enough to send anyone into a tail spin. And if you’re prone to anxiety and depression, stress (and a lack of sleep) can take a significant toll on your mood.”

The 51% approach to ease the stress of the season is to make it small and be in the now.

Here are some tips for a manageable and fun holiday season.


The now is this magical place where time can slow down and gratitude can exist. When you feel overwhelmed and can’t stop thinking about what’s next on your list. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Look out the window. Think of something you are grateful for. Light a candle or put on a song you like. In essence stop and smell the roses. Bring yourself into the moment- just for a moment. It will bring down your stress and help you better deal with what you have going on.

Did you ever see City Slickers with Billy Crystal?In the movie their trail guide Curly played by Jack Palance says,

  • Do you know what the secret of life is? This.” He holds up one finger. Mitch says, “Your finger?” Curly responds, “One thing. Just one thing…that’s what you’ve got to figure out.”

The best part of this message is that they never explain what the one thing is, it’s up to you to find what that one thing is.

While Curly may have been talking about the secret of life, I am talking about the secret of being in the now.When you are in an overwhelming moment, just find one thing. Just one thing that makes you calm, happy, or grateful. Even when you feel like everything is falling apart there is always something. Find a flower, the sunset, a sound, a picture, a sip of coffee. One thing that will bring you into the now and focus on it for a second. Just find that one thing can help you grab hold and be mindful long enough to get into the now.


While being in the now can help you focus when things are getting out of control, planning ahead can help you from getting too overwhelmed in the first place. Use the 51% principle to set small goals 51% of the time to get everything accomplished. Instead of staying up all night wrapping presents the night before Christmas, set up a wrapping station and set aside a small amount of time 3 nights a week after dinner to wrap what you have so far. Set aside an hour each Sunday to work on holiday stuff while you have your morning coffee. Make it small so it doesn’t stack up and become big!

#3 LESS IS MORE- in other words…make it small!

We tend to set our goals too big. I love to decorate for Christmas, but I have a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old and we are leaving town for Christmas. I knew it would make me sad not to decorate and let my 3-year-old be part of that tradition. I was also really stressed thinking about getting everything decorated and only being home for two weeks to enjoy it, and then having to come home and pack it all up.

I often struggle with black and white thinking and this was a perfect example. Either stress to get it all decorated, or don’t do it at all. Instead I made it small and chose a middle ground. I chose only the decorations that I really needed to feel the holiday spirit. I love the garland and twinkle lights and the tree the most. So I went with less is more. My son helped me string the garland on my banister, and we put twinkle lights around it. Then we got out my 2-foot Christmas tree from when I was single and set it up in the living room. It really made the place feel different even with those small touches. My son had fun decorating himself with twinkle lights before we were done, thus accomplishing the tradition and feel goods. I left the other decorations in the box until next year. I made it small to have it all.


We all like to have control of things, but the holidays are so busy and involve more events and people that we must accept that we need to be flexible.

We will be spending our holiday with my husband’s side of the family this year. There will be 15 of us in a house together. The house is beautiful and a nice size, but it is a lot of people and 4 kids under 4 years old sharing space. It is a lot of fun, but it also requires us all to give and take and be flexible. As my father-in-law said in his last email, ““flexible people do not break”.

I try to focus on my rule of thirds I spoke about in a previous blog. There are 1/3 of things I am not willing to give in on. For example traditions I have with my kids over the holidays. Or having our own form of transportation part of the time so that we have more freedom. There are1/3 of things I’m willing to compromise on, like if our kids get baths in the morning instead of at night, if it helps accommodate others. And there are 1/3 of things I can just let go, like when we eat. I appreciate that they feed us at all, let alone take care of most of the meals while we visit.

This really helps me be flexible when I know the couple of things that are important to me I have some control over.


One thing that really overwhelms us is committing to too much. Too much to do, too much to buy, and too many people to please. We have to learn when to say no.

If you can’t make it to everyone’s Christmas party it’s okay. Skip one to enjoy another. If you don’t have time to decorate, just do your favorite decorations. If you don’t have time to make cookies for your kids Christmas party – BUY THEM!

Trying to be perfect sucks the fun out of everything, so just accept you can’t do it all and choose what you say yes to.

Don’t let anyone tell you what the holidays are about. Don’t feel pressured to make it anything other than what you believe it to be. Do take care of yourself and try your best to enjoy it. Stay in the moment and make it small.

Make it Small,


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