And the holidays are upon us! Every year they seem to sneak up a little faster, ready to clock you with the sudden realization that “Oh my frozen gibblets, I forgot to defrost the turkey! And Thanksgiving is tomorrow!” and “Holy Schnauzers, Christmas is a month away!”

Some people choose to overcompensate by putting their Christmas tree up the weekend of Halloween (yes, the same ones who don’t take down their lights until March — apparently Valentine’s Day needs Christmas lights too!), while some wait until Thanksgiving Day to microwave-thaw their turkey, Christmas Morning to shop for presents, and New Years Eve at 11:59 to buy their champagne. Whichever technique you prefer, contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to turn into a holiday-zilla to get through the holidays; they will still be there when you get around to them. Thanksgiving will still be Thanksgiving, even if you forget the cranberries this year, Christmas will still be Christmas without that one type of cookie that your grandma always used to make, and New Years will still show up on January 1st even without the silly hats!

Don’t stress yourself over the little things so much that you forget to enjoy this time that is supposed to be time off, that is meant to give you time to remember what you’re thankful for, instead of take away from it.

I know, I know — always harder to do than say. But that’s why God created priority lists.

If you’re one of the many, many people who tend to start out the holidays with good intentions and determined to finish still full of cheer, but end up feeling deflated, bloated, and utterly exhausted, then this might help. Ready? Okay:

Not everything needs to be done.

That is the overall header. Shocking, I know, but stay with me and maybe this revolutionary statement will begin to make sense. Here are three main points:

Not everything needs to be done the way your mother did it.

Or grandmother, either. Taking on too much simply because of tradition is neither healthy nor practical; you must take into account the differences of your lifestyle from that of your family. Maybe you work full-time in an office, while your mother worked full-time at home. Maybe you have a big family that comes with a lot of obligations, and your grandparents only had one child — or vice versa. The things that worked for one generation worked that way for a reason, and with each generation, we tend to forget that it is necessary to modify and adapt our traditions so they can remain sensible and fun for us, as well as for the loved ones for whom we pull these events together.

Not everything needs to be done the exact same way you did it last year.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in having to out-do ourselves. We want to prove to each other that we can do great things, greater than great things, the best of things. We savor the reverent words, “That was even better than last year!” and become determined to make it the standard. Sometimes though, too much really is too much, both for ourselves and those we’re trying to entertain. If you need or want to downscale, go ahead! Be creative and have fun with it, and know that you smiling and enjoying yourself is a heck of a lot better a gift than you tense and exhausted in trying to keep it all together.

Not everything needs to be done perfectly.

Perfection really is overrated. It can, in fact, be downright boring. And 9 out of 10 times, the only person who is going to notice that not everything is exactly right, is you. So why take on that added stress? Do a good job, yes, put in the effort to make your holidays worthwhile — but make them worthwhile to you. December 25th will still be December 25th with or without the eggnog, or Grandma’s special jello. Breathe. And remember to enjoy.

If you need a little more structure, then try this:

For each of the following, rank them in order of importance to you — remember, there is no right or wrong answer, just what you hold dear:

___ Holiday baking/crafts/decorating

___ A time to spend with friends

___ A time to spend with immediate family

___ A time to spend with extended family

___ A time to kick back and relax

___ A time for Renewal (Spirituality, Advent, Community)

___ A time to help the needy in your community

___ A time to create resolutions for the new year

___ A time to go to special events

___ A time to give gifts to those you love

Once you’ve ranked them, take a moment and sit back before reading them to yourself. You may be surprised to find out what you really consider important — number one on your list — and what you could spend a lot less time worrying about — number ten on your list. If baking was your mom’s number 1 and your number 10, it’s okay to let it go, so long as it gives you that time to make your real priorities count.

Guilt is for after the holidays are over. While you’re in them, why not do your best to enjoy them? Happy Holidays!