Dear Laura,
Every year for the holidays, I feel pulled in a million directions. My in-laws and my parents all expect us to make the rounds and visit them, the kids have school activities, we have work parties to attend, shopping, cooking, it just all gets to be too much! What I really want to do is run away for a few weeks and not look back. I feel like I am letting everyone down, but my heart is just not in it. Please help.

Dear K.,

Every year at this time I see normally sound and reasonable people go a bit berserk. Just why are we putting so much pressure on ourselves?… Because we are fed a steady diet by the media that is brainwashing us with commercialism, and the idea that if our lives don’t look like a Hallmark card then there must be something wrong with us. Women are especially sensitive to the pressures of this hype because traditionally we are in roles to serve others. But how we can appreciate any of it when we are so busy rushing around just to get it all done? The pressure is enormous, unhealthy and unrealistic.

It’s time for you to stop running on auto pilot take back your own power. Start today, turn off the TV and make a list of what is important and meaningful to you about the holidays. Search your heart for some alternatives to the chaos. If too much traveling is a problem, consider having all the parents and in-laws over to your place. One family I know moved the big gathering into the summer months, so that they can have more stillness at home during winter. Another goes on a family vacation to someplace warm and sunny every December. Another puts names in a hat and has a $10 spending limit. Still another gave up the big gift exchanging and donated the money to a charity. Another spends it serving food together at the homeless shelter. Another goes for a family hike, and another goes to the movies!

Use that same creative energy that normally helps get you through it all in a whole new way–to redefine the meaning in it. Sit with your partner and children and explain to them that you love them, but this year you are going to do things in a new way. Ask them for their willingness as their best gift in return to you. Ask them to help participate, and to help figure out what is meaningful and important. Perhaps they can contribute in the pared down preparations by taking on some of the tasks that you used to do alone.

I hope you can love yourself enough to be willing to change this. When you do, the real meaning of this time of year will come through. And remember, none of us needs a yearly holiday to show those around us that we love and appreciate them. We can do it anytime! A heartfelt note can have ten times the meaning of anything you can buy at the mall. Think less stuff, more sustenance. Good luck!