As the holiday season kicks into full gear, excitement, emotions, and expectations run high. There are few other times as unique as this six-week stretch between Thanksgiving and the start of the new year. But when everyone is ramping up and your own life is going through a rough patch, the holidays can yawn ahead like a black hole you just need to get through.

How can you make the holidays special without the time, money, effort, or stamina that’s in short supply for you? Cutting back on anything you normally do during this time of year – parties, baking, shopping, volunteering – will be tough to do. It’s not easy for nurses to say no when someone needs something. But you might find the relief you’ll feel from reducing all your “have-tos” feels pretty good. Good enough that your holiday season becomes easier.

1. Focus on What’s Important

You can’t look anywhere right now without reminders of elaborate dinners, gifts, coordinated place settings, sparkly clothes, happy family gatherings, and all the details to make a magical marketing holiday. The reality is that many of us are short on time, sleep, and money for everything the magazine holidays promote. The key to making a magical holiday for you is to decide what’s most important for making your holiday special. Is it the decorations? The family gatherings? Choose one priority make that one thing special within the means you have available.

2.  One Thing at a Time

It’s an old and effective rule – take the holidays in small doses. Can’t deal with a huge turkey dinner? Don’t do it. You can either buy it premade or make your own favorite dinner. Exhausted by caregiving and not up for small talk? Forgo big gatherings this year and see if one or two friends will meet you for coffee. Even if you have 30 minutes, they will lift your spirits more than a party you didn’t want to go to in the first place.

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3. Keep to Your Budget

Sticking to a budget means more than your cash outlay. Your time and energy are as important (if not more so) and probably just as limited. The holidays are overwhelming in the best of times because we put so many expectations on what should be done. If you have been stretched too thin in past years, be honest about it. Are you tired of the cookie swap but feel a sense of peace serving dinner at a shelter? Pick one. Does the idea of another day at the mall make you cringe? Go online, look for free shipping, and keep it simple (plus there’s less impulse buying and you don’t have to stop for lunch!).

4. Ask for Help

Nurses are notorious for refusing to ask others for help. In a profession where you constantly give, asking for help often goes against your instances. But you can get help in small ways. Can you get your groceries delivered once or twice (many stores offer discounts for the first few deliveries)? Can your kids help with one or two chores? Can your spouse or partner pick up gift cards, make dinner, or do some laundry? Probably, but you might have to ask.

5. Find the Peace

Don’t laugh! And don’t dismiss this one either. Finding the peace in the holiday season is entirely up to you. You can choose how you do it and when, but taking the time to reflect on your year is helpful. Are you counting the days until this one is over? Honor yourself and all the struggles you have been through this year. If you can find nothing positive to reflect on, accept that. You aren’t wrong for feeling that way. What you can do instead is every now and then be aware of something in nature that gives you the smallest pleasure – the sound of birds chirping, the late afternoon sun, the puffy clouds, the crisper air. Take that minute to appreciate that one thing and the peace it might have given you, if only briefly.

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The holidays can be a wonderful time, but when you’re struggling in your life, it’s tough to navigate the season. Respect your own needs and honor what will make your holiday season bright. Taking a new approach to such a traditional season isn’t always easy, but often feels best in the end. If you’re able to adapt to what makes you happier, you’ll be better able to take on the holidays.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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