The holidays have been known to increase pressure, stress and overall busyness. Over a three week period we attempt to fit it all in. Of course, this time period varies and can become considerably longer, depending on how easily you are swayed by retail pressure to get jump-started in early fall.

Every last ‘ought to’ and ‘should go’ is stuffed into the whirlwind of it all, tempting us to lose our cool or at the very least, rob us of our joy — and isn’t enjoying and celebrating with our loved ones what this season is supposed to be all about?

My sense is that the busyness, pressure to find the perfect gift, added lines-up, traffic, and belief we should be hosting and toasting every night of the week, inevitably causes us to lose sight of the feeling we are all after — joy.

In an attempt to stop the madness and instead relish these next days of the holidays, I made this list of reminders to let go of the seriousness of it all, and instead embrace the opportunity to be playful and soak in every last bit of joy. If you feel like you have room to switch gears and experience more joy, try these ideas out and see if they fit.

1. Set the Tone

 If you are hosting and you want your guests to be light and have fun, then set the stage and ambiance to encourage this to happen. Be happy and light, perhaps put on some fun music and set the tone the moment your guests arrive. Better yet, bring out a board game to entice people to interact and connect; rather than making the focus be a perfect display of hors d’oeuvres and baked goods that you either slaved over for days to prepare, or stopped at five different over-packed stores to find. This of course only applies if you don’t actually enjoy preparing a spread. If baking and cooking is what brings you joy, then carry on and soak in every moment of this creative time and space.

Whether you are a host or a guest, instead of worrying about what you have or don’t have, what the dynamics will be or won’t be, focus on one simple thing — experiencing moments of joy, even if they are only felt by you. At the end of the day, despite the pressure we may put on ourselves, we aren’t actually in control of all that much. All we can truly do is put in our best effort, focus on what we are grateful for and know that not everyone we are surrounded by is going to be on the same page — and that is okay.

2. Let it Go

Whether it is doing the dishes while you have a house filled with guests, wanting to get the last word in, or choosing to confront a relative on an issue you’ve been bothered by for years — just don’t, and see what happens instead. Why now? Don’t allow the added stress of the holidays to lure you into losing your patience or initiating heated discussions that would be better off had when things are calmer. Instead of feeding a story that causes us to suffer or distracting ourselves so that we don’t enjoy the people in front of us, use the time over the holidays to see the best in others and in ourselves. Be gentle.

There is nothing worse than guests arriving to a host/hostess who is wound up or steeped in martyrdom about how much work it is to have everyone in. If it is too hard and not fun, why bother? Either let go of the need to host if you don’t enjoy it, or let go of the need to bitch while doing it. If you catch yourself going there, laugh at yourself. Then ask yourself what you can do in the moment to see your joy and have more joy. If we are blessed enough to be hosting, it usually means there are people in our lives who are willing and perhaps even wanting to spend time in our company. If we have something to give them, we are even more blessed to have the resources to be able to have an offering of food and drink. Sometimes, the best gift we can give ourselves in times of feeling overwhelmed, is to put things in perspective at a really basic level. This helps us to let go of the detailed stories that may be running through our heads and instead put our focus on what is going well. 
 3. Choose Joy

Here is the playful part: there is always a way to choose joy and have fun. Remember what it was like when we were small children? Laughing, having fun and searching for joyful opportunities were natural places to go. Allow yourself to go there. When we stop taking ourselves and everything around us so seriously, the opportunity to be playful appears.

Instead of plugging into your smart phone and experiencing more sensory overload while you wait in the grocery store line-up, be present and look around you. Smile, be open, and I bet you will find that there is someone else also standing in the line-up just like you, who is also open to sharing some lightness, humor or simple connection. Strike up a conversation, keep it light and focused on the positive, you may even share a laugh — stranger things have happened.

Turn up the music and dance while you cook. If you have kids, nieces/nephews, grandchildren etc. take time to play with them — take their lead. They will steer you in the right direction every time if you allow them to.

When you are out in the busyness or surrounded by opportunities to connect with others: choose acceptance over judgment, connection over distraction, love over resentment and always know that there is fun and joy in the moments we are in — we just need to embrace them. EnJOY!

Happy Holidays!

Check out Emily’s award winning book: ‘Fall in Love With Your Life, One Week at a Time’. A perfect holiday gift for your loved one. Check out the book trailer to learn more!

Emily Madill is the author of 11 books in the area of self-development and empowerment, both for children and adults. Her newest title ‘Fall in Love with Your Life, One Week at a Time’ is now being offered as an E-Course.

Photo by Yasunori Kosaka

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Holiday Season Joy Self-help Happiness Tips

Originally published at on December 22, 2015.

Originally published at


  • Emily Madill is an author and certified professional coach, ACC with a BA in business and psychology. Emily is one of Thrive Global's Editors-at-large and a coach at BetterUp. She has published 11 titles in the area of self-development and empowerment, both for children and adults. You can find her writing in Chicken Soup for the Soul:Think Positive for Kids; Thrive Global; The Huffington Post; TUT. com; Best Self Magazine; MindBodyGreen; The Muse;; TinyBuddha; Aspire Magazine and others. Emily has a private coaching practice and an online program offering courses that support others to create lasting habits around self-love, well-being and all things related to time and weekly planning. She lives on Vancouver Island, Canada, with her husband, two sons and their sweet rescue dog Annie. Learn more at: