Does it ever feel to you that someone is tightening the gears on life in order to speed up time, especially during the holidays?

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Boeing Commercial Aircraft factory in Everett, Washington, where the new 777 jetliner was being assembled. The Boeing guide pointed out how the gears under the seats could be tightened to decrease the space between the rows, a potentially useful feature if you were selling the aircraft to a country of midgets.

I noticed, shortly afterward, that legroom did start disappearing on aircraft, an effort, I believe, to reverse engineer us into becoming midgets.

I don’t know who is responsible for tightening my experience of time during the holiday season. Every year, for those who celebrate Christmas, the number of days in the buying season appears to be expanding (has it spilled into September yet?), while our experience of time, or the lack of it, is increasingly compressed. Our collective buying hysteria is like a horse race, where we line up and wait for an announcer to cry, “And they’re off,” as we rush our way out of the gate, not quite sure how to even find the finish line.

No wonder we’re stressed.

If you celebrate another holiday like Hanukah, the winter solstice, Kwanzaa, or New Years, I hope you’re feeling more sane. I invite you to still take a few ideas off this page to apply to any big, stressful events in your life.

Make a list and check it twice.

Don’t worry about being naughty or nice. Just make a list of everything you want to do and realize that not even a superhuman filled with holiday spirit/s could accomplish it. Then take out a fat sharpie pen, maybe a red one, and, with gusto, put lines through at least a third of the items.

If this feels impossible (“You don’t understand, I have to buy a gift for my nephew…”), invite your BFF for a Toasted White Chocolate Mocha (real drink) and ask her or him to edit the list for you. Hopefully, they will question: You HAVE to put up a tree, attend two holiday concerts and go to the office party this weekend??? You HAVE to buy a gift for your thirty-five year old nephew who has never once said thank-you? You HAVE to decorate your bathroom?

The more obligations you can cross out, the more time you’ll have for the holiday experiences you most care about.

Drop Perfection. Pretty good is good enough.

Think of imperfections as the spice of life, like one of the secret ingredients in the Chestnut Praline Chai Tea Latte (real drink). You need them to prove that you’re human, and that applies to the people around you as well.

Set your tolerance meter on peak strength as you laugh at the foibles and failings of yourself and others. Your teenage daughter is acting surly? She’s proving herself human; don’t let it spoil your day. Your husband forgets to buy the candles before the party? You aren’t able to send out cards?  And that prize batch of cookies that chars when the doctor calls at the wrong moment?

More proof.

Remember that in the original Christmas story, the inn blew the reservation, the motels were all full, and the couple ended up staying in a barn without even a cot. Your mishaps and those of your friends are nothing in comparison.

(Special holiday bonus: My official permission for you to have an occasional, scrumptious meltdown if you need one.)

Accentuate the positive

With a tip of the hat to Johnny Mercer’s hit song from 1944, we need to give more attention to what we love so that what we don’t can roll off our backs. Confession: I do not like crowds, lines, Christmas carols played in elevators, holiday offers over Amazon, or malls. But I love putting up a Christmas tree, singing carols, decorating the house, quiet meditations and choosing a gift for someone I love (when I’m not stressed). And hot baths.

Focus on what you love and give yourself a lot of it. If you want to go to three Messiah concerts, keep White Christmas playing on the stereo, or sip a juniper latte (real drink) every day, do it. If you love winter snow, why not take a special drive up into the mountains and send a loving note to your in-laws telling them their gift will be coming soon?

If you choose to drink a cup of low-fat, highly-sugared eggnog every day, fully savor it, while allowing visions of January exercise programs to dance in your head. (Private note to husband.)

The holidays are meant to be a time of joy and celebration, so if you fill up on joy, you can throttle down on stress.

Take ten minutes (or less) to make a change

There will be a few things you might not prefer but can’t avoid, like the obligatory holiday office party that can be so deadly for us introverts.  That’s why I wrote my little e-book The Ten Minute Holiday Miracle: Reclaim your joy and sanity this season in ten minutes or less. It’s designed to help you create small intentions that change your feelings about your experiences, or to trick the stress out of you.

Rather than take space here to describe these stress-busting secrets, I’d rather give you the book as a gift. Pick it up by clicking here.

Remember the holidays don’t have to be all sunshine and joy. It’s OK to embrace a little darkness, too. This is the season of light, and the light will always bring out a few shadows.

Enjoy the ride, and, even when life feels like a roller coaster, buckle up your seat belt and send out some extra love.

It’s needed more now than ever.

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