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How to Create a Happy, Stress-Free Christmas Day

Penny Lulich is a freelance writer, artist, and photographer. She lives in Indiana.

Make this Christmas morning a stress-free success.

Make this Christmas morning a stress-free success.

The holidays can be a stressful time, especially when you feel pressured to make sure Christmas Day is the most exciting and perfectly planned occasion of the year. It's so easy to get caught up in the holiday rat race that I've had to come up with five rules I follow to make sure I don't get too swept up in all of the chaos. Following these guidelines helps me have a fun, easy, and pressure-free holiday.

5 Rules to Follow to Avoid Unnecessary Holiday Stress

  1. Keep It Simple.
  2. Choose Uplifting Music.
  3. Create Gifts for Others First.
  4. Slow Down.
  5. Remember That People Are More Important Than Agendas.

1. Keep It Simple

It's a tried-and-true fact that simplicity makes for less stress and more happiness. The best Christmases we've had as a family over the years have always been the ones we've kept simple. Going to a rustic cabin, playing in the snow, and baking and decorating cookies together are just a few of the ways we've enjoyed the season.

I always remind myself that Christmas is one small part of the entire year, and even though it may be one of the most special, it comes and goes quite quickly. To wrap up all my energy and expense into one short season just doesn't make sense. Reminding myself of this fact helps me temper my shopping trips, food intake, and decorating-diva craziness. Keeping a long-term view in mind helps me stay balanced and keep the Christmas season simple.

It's amazing just how much the simple pleasures of the season will be remembered. Those memories outlive all of the other things that we deemed so important to our happiness. So, try to keep it simple—that's what I'm going to do.

Get out the watercolor paints and make Christmas cards together.

Get out the watercolor paints and make Christmas cards together.

2. Choose Uplifting Music

I cannot stress this rule enough. There are seasonal songs that can make us sad or depressed, and then there are the ones that make us feel light and happy.

At our family dinners throughout the month of December, we have a hand-out paper with all of our favorite Christmas songs. After dinner, we stay at the table and sing. Sometimes the children will run off to play, but when they hear their particular favorite, they race back to sing it with us.

Recently, I had a sleepover with my grandchildren. The night was cool for the end of September. The children were tucked into their sleeping bags. And what did they want to sing? Christmas songs—their favorites, of course. And so we sang them together before drifting off into a peaceful sleep.

I can tell you that we never listen to or sing any songs that make us feel anxious, scared, sad, or depressed. Those feelings are kept at bay with the lovely happy songs we sing instead. Music makes a huge difference, so for a happy, stress-free Christmas, I suggest happy music.

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Music makes every occasion better.

Music makes every occasion better.

3. Create Gifts for Others First

The old maxim, "It is better to give than to receive," is still true, and at Christmas time, it is an especially helpful reminder that no matter what our lives are like, we can always find someone who is in need and do something to help.

The great thing is that we have many organizations that are already set up to help those in need. I look forward to our local shopping mall putting up a tree with the names and needs of people in our community. I tend to look for older folks and children to buy for. My grandchildren get to help me choose, and then we shop together and wrap the gifts.

One year, there was an online organization that was asking for help to purchase blankets for people in a war-torn country who lived in the freezing cold mountains. Another year, our local elementary school had a hat-and-glove drive at Christmas time. There is help needed everywhere we turn, and helping others is a great way to help ourselves, especially during times of stress.

I like to make Christmas cards and sell them at the mall for charity.

I like to make Christmas cards and sell them at the mall for charity.

4. Slow Down

Don't let the Christmas season come and go. Another year so full of activities that you can hardly breathe has almost come to a close. We've all been there. It's painful for me to remember the years when I was too busy trying to make the perfect Christmas come true for myself and for everyone I loved. By the end of it all, I had only created a whole lot of stress, frustration, and unhappiness.

Thankfully, I've gotten older and maybe a little bit wiser. I've come to realize that putting all of my energy into Christmas is a mistake. What do I have left for the rest of the year? Exhaustion by New Year's, drudgery through the winter months, and then I'm still barely able to climb up out of a funk by the end of spring.

"Why? For what?" I ask myself. And this is what comes back to me: Slow Down. Take your time. Enjoy the moments rather than the events. The tortoise wins the race, after all, and he's not frazzled by the end. Take a cue from him, and Christmas will be more enjoyable and less stressful.

5. Remember That People Are More Important Than Agendas

Whether you have close family or not, the people who are in your life will remember your attention, graciousness, and kindness more than the perfect well-planned event and gift exchange that took all of your time and left you stressed and unhappy.

I remember that my brothers were not inclined to join our family celebrations after they grew up and left home. They preferred quiet solitude to our normal, chaotic, hurried time leading up to Christmas morning. To be honest, I used to think that was normal for everyone. Since then, I've come to realize that Christmas does not have to be that way.

I've changed a lot over the years. I've let go of the flurry of activities and hurried shopping, wrapping, and decorating from before. I'm much more relaxed about it all now, and there's more peace in our home and in my heart.

Have a peaceful Christmas!

Have a peaceful Christmas!

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