Many people talk about surviving the holidays. I suggest you can do more than just survive: you can recreate your holidays. I’m not encouraging you to tackle the 100 pound gorilla in your family’s living room, but simply to set a new intention for yourself and create the holiday you want in small and meaningful ways.

The premise behind this change comes from slowing down and asking yourself, “What do I want?” Then continue practicing this method of self-care during times of stress. Changing old patterns in relationships requires being gentle, being patient, and taking the time.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Give yourself permission to stop at any given time.
You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone in order take time out for yourself. It is your right to stop, take a breath, and ask yourself, “What do I want right now?” The answer may be, “I don’t know.” That’s ok. It is healing enough to take the time to ask yourself this question. This is the essence of self-care.

2. Make an agreement with your spouse, your partner, or a safe family member to have a check-in time during parties or family events.
Having a predetermined check-in time midway through a holiday event can be a great breather, especially during difficult gatherings. Just use this check-in for each of you to see how the other is doing. Devising a codeword for each other can be another way to set up a spontaneous check-in for those unexpected stressful moments.

3. Limit your commitments.
If you are one of those people who overcommits to events and then feels rough and ragged by the end of the holiday season, this tip is for you. Feelings of guilt and pressure to attend holiday events are common. Remember you can always say no to an invitation. This is not an invitation is not a reflection on how well you like or dislike the host. You are just taking it slow this holiday season. Set a goal for yourself and limit the amount of events you will attend. You may find yourself enjoying the parties you do attend with greater enthusiasm.

4. Let go of expectations.
It’s ok to want your holidays to be different. Set your mind with good intentions and an open heart, and let go of results. Focus on what you can bring to the event, not what you expect to get out of it. This will help to reduce feelings of disappointment and leave room to be pleasantly surprised.

5. Create your own holiday traditions.
Write down what a stress-free holiday might look like for you. Pick one or two ideas that you like, and offer your suggestions to others. You may find that other people feel the same as you and would also love a change of pace. Creating new traditions does not require others to participate, so don’t be afraid to start a new holiday tradition by yourself. This might be the best holiday gift you receive.

Article by: Sevin Philips,MFT