The holidays are here! Are you behind yet?

No matter how well prepared you are, the holidays always seem to throw a couple of surprises to catch you off guard. Maybe you got the flu or one of your kids was home with strep for two days. A snowstorm on your day off might have caused a ruffle in your shopping and errand plans. And the nights you planned to get all those holiday cards off your desk (or the kitchen table)? Well, that evaporated in a cloud of school concerts, nursing classes, or just general business.

With just a couple of weeks left in this holiday season, how can you gain control and enjoy this special time of year?

1. Ditch the Perfect

Perfection rules in lots of the nursing profession because lives depend on it. But perfection doesn’t have to carry over to your personal life. You’ve heard it said over and over – excellence doesn’t mean perfection. When it comes to the holiday season, feel free to ditch the idea of perfect and grab hold of good enough. Good enough means letting go of the idea that your perfect party has 10 appetizers and a once-a-year-because-it’s-so-time-consuming main course. Good friends or family and a lasagna (or, yes, even pizza!) is all you really need.

2. Embrace the Easy
2. Embrace the Easy

Who says you can’t get the dessert from a bakery? Who says you have to wrap every present with flair? If you can grab a few extra minutes for yourself or to watch a movie with your family, do it. Easy doesn’t mean you’re skipping out on the holidays. Easy means you have more time to enjoy them.

3. Shop Online
3. Shop Online

I can’t say it enough. Get those presents online and then support your local merchants for smaller, specialized gifts. Shopping online saves gas, time, money (go for the free shipping!), and sanity.

4. Take the Time for Fun
4. Take the time for fun

Did you actually say you couldn’t go sledding with the kids or to a movie with your girlfriends or to dinner with your spouse because you had to go to the mall and get your shopping done? Really? Squeeze in the shopping where you can and put the important people first in line. That’s what makes your holiday season memorable, not the shopping. Doing it the other way around brings on the holiday crankiness faster just about anything.

5. Get Outside
5. Get Outside

Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s winter for many of us and not exactly beach weather. But getting outside is the best antidote to the holiday overload. A short walk, a trip to a botanical garden, stopping to look at an expanse of lake or beach, a cup of coffee standing by your car on top of a big hill with a view makes you grateful for the day. That’s a perfect mindset for all the holidays are about.

6. Be Good to You
6. Be Good to You

There’s so little time right now, just falling into bed can feel like being good to you. But that’s not really giving yourself what you need. Take the time to rub nice lotion into your work-worn hands and your long-suffering feet. Enjoy a cup of your favorite coffee from the coffee shop when you’re running errands. Call a friend. Send an overdue thank you. Pick up a movie you love or a new CD that will make you feel happy. You don’t have to spend money – you have to treat yourself like you would your best friend every now and then.

7. Honor the Season
7. Honor the Season

Whatever you believe or think about the season, it comes only once a year. You might not be much of a holiday person, you might be struggling mightily this year, or you might just be worn out by now. If so, that’s okay. Find something about the season – the crisp air, the sparkling lights in the windows, the longer nights, the scents – and focus on why they give you joy. Then seek those out whenever you can and appreciate it in the moment. This time of year is unique and doesn’t last very long. You should enjoy it as much as you can – and you can start by taking it easy!

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

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