No question about it, Christmas is such an exciting time, filled with joy and goodwill. It’s also loaded with high expectations and the inevitable sense of urgency … shopping, decorating, activities for the kids, entertaining and s-t-r-e-s-s.

No matter how aware we are that it's coming, and try to avoid it, holiday stress happens just like clockwork, because the triggers are always the same … too many commitments, too much shopping and preparation to do, end of year work responsibilities, crowded stores and family gatherings.

Of course there are those who will insist they thrive on the rush and adrenaline - and we bless them and wish them well.

But for many others, holiday stress can really put a damper on the season.

Year-after-year we knock ourselves out trying to do-it-all in an effort to fulfill our expectations for the “perfect” Christmas; and year-after-year we end up attempting to achieve the impossible, “If I could just check that last gift off my list before I run out of money, lose a dress size by the party next Saturday, figure out a way to get my husband to buy what I want for a change, and somehow keep obnoxious Uncle Harry from crashing family dinner again this year, it will be the perfect Christmas!”

Great Expectations

If only our reality could compare to our vision. Thing is, each year one thing after another seems to disrupt our plans for that perfect holiday season … someone keeps getting hung up at work, we find decorations in complete disarray or the Christmas tree lights hopelessly tangled. We run out of money before we get to the end of the gift list, the turkeys dry, we can never seem to find time to bake those holiday cookies, there's a part missing from the new toy, or the kids can’t stop bickering.

The truth is that a lot of holiday related stress can be reduced, if not eliminated entirely, if we would recognize ahead of time what our vulnerabilities are, and plan accordingly … beginning with taking a little time to establish our priorities for the season.

Christmas on a Budget

For many families finances are tighter than ever this season, but Christmas on a budget does not have to put a crimp on your holiday season. What better way to illustrate the true meaning of Christmas to your children than to teach them to use their creativity, and focus on quality time together. It's not about what you buy - it's about what you do, and who you do it with!

A great way to start the season is to sit down with the family, and together discuss priorities and schedule outings and activities. Give everyone an opportunity to contribute and make the planning part of the fun. There are many no and low cost activities available to make the most of the holiday season, it just takes a little planning.

Alone Doesn't Have to be Lonely

But about those who find themselves alone this holiday season? There’s so much hype for the wonderful time of togetherness during the holidays that for some it only serves to accentuate the feeling of being alone and disconnected.

The holidays can be particularly hard on those who are separated from loved ones, those newly divorced, or those who have suffered the death of a loved one. There are also those who do have family, but would rather do pretty much anything other than see them; for them too, it can be a lonely season.

The best part of being an adult is we have the ability to make choices. You can choose to redefine your holiday traditions, even if only for this season. Rather than dwelling on what is lacking, choose to make this a time of self-discovery and new beginnings.

The most important thing to remember is that there are no set rules about how holidays have to be. Ultimately, creating a more intentional Holiday Season is really just about learning how to focus on the things that really matter, and letting the rest go.

Author's Bio: 

Marquita Herald is a transformation guide, the creator of the life by design blog IGG - Tips, Tools & Tantalizing Ideas, and the author of 4 books on the power of living your life by design and her latest - Christmas by Design: Creating a Stress-Free Holiday Season!

She writes to inspire readers to reach a little beyond what's comfortable to achieve goals that matter and to refuse to accept simply "getting along" in life out of fear or limiting beliefs.

Marquita's professional background includes a successful 20 year career in hotel sales and marketing followed by a decade as a life and small business coach.

To learn more about how to her books and living your life by design - please visit her at