Sleighbells are ringing! Be like Santa and take the reins so the hustle and bustle of the season do not erupt into chaos. The demands of the season can become overwhelming, turning what should be an enjoyable and magical time into a hectic burden, leaving you frustrated, frazzled, tired, and stressed. Join me in taking back control of the holidays! 

Be like Elsa and let it go.

It is not possible to do everything perfectly. Identify your priorities and focus on doing those well. Not everyone is a list person, but crossing off items is not only effective but cathartic. 

Make a list of your family and friends for whom you are buying gifts. Keep track of what you purchase them, and you can even make a note about what kind of wrapping is required to streamline that process.

If hosting a holiday meal or party, plan the menu well in advance and accomplish as much as you can before the day of the event. You can better enjoy the moment by being prepared.

Stop burdening yourself with unrealistic expectations.

Accept that it’s okay if you don’t accomplish every item on your to-do list. If you run out of time to send holiday cards or don’t get every decoration in place, don’t let that steal your joy. The important thing is that you stay present in the moments that mean the most. 

True regret is realizing that the holidays are over and you did not sit still long enough to soak up the beauty of the season and the joy of being surrounded by family and friends. Limit your commitments to the things that you and your family and friends cherish the most.   

Remember this is the season of giving

Take the time to do something for others while expecting nothing in return. There are so many opportunities to give back to our community during the holidays. Volunteer to feed the homeless or make deliveries for Meals on Wheels, make goody bags and distribute them to seniors in assisted living centers, ring the bell for the Salvation Army, or give an Angel Tree child the magic of Christmas morning.

All acts of kindness and love make a difference. Helping others not only brightens the day of someone in need, but it will help you slow down for a minute and savor the spirit of the season.

Take time for yourself. 

Carve out time to exercise and maintain your healthy lifestyle. Take a handful of hours each week to check in with yourself and slow down. That may be as simple as grabbing a hot chocolate and sitting quietly in the bookstore to read for a few minutes. Drop into a yoga class and concentrate on your breathing while pushing away holiday stresses. Sit by the fire to watch a Christmas movie and snuggle with your dog. Make a conscious effort to tend to your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. 

Taking back control of the holidays can be hard, but it’s also the most important. Your families and responsibilities will still be there after you take a breather and refocus yourself. You will be so much better equipped to deal with and enjoy the demands of the holidays if you have a few moments to relax and reenergize. 

Make a plan and stick to it

Make the conscious decision to enjoy this time without allowing the demands and stresses to become daunting and overwhelming. Decide what is most important and what is realistic, so you can release yourself from the guilt and truly enjoy the most magical time of the year!   

Mary-Marsha Riley is a certified personal trainer, attorney, and pageant coach. For more information visit