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Amid the cacophony of celebration, gifts and rituals of the holiday season lurks underlying stress, obligation and family drama. Want to find a way to remain calm through it all? Mike Robbins shares his ideas on how to shift your focus to what's really important.
If you're anything like me you probably have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the holidays. I love the excitement, parties, decorations, rituals, music, gifts, connections and more. However, even these fun things can wear on me. The stress, drama, consumption, obligation and expense that often come with this time of year are not on my list of favorite things.

I often feel like I'm not doing enough, not on top of my list and sometimes I worry that I won't get everything done in time to make the people in my life happy. Can you relate?

This year, especially with all that's going on in the economy and the world, what if we each made a commitment to appreciate the holiday season and enjoy the whole experience, regardless of our circumstances or any external pressure we may feel? Appreciating the holiday season, as with anything in life, will make it more enjoyable and much less stressful.

Instead of rushing around in a high state of anxiety about crossing every item off our never-ending to-do list, we could choose another way—one that will make this holiday season enjoyable, fun and peaceful.

The 3 things you can do to reduce stress this holiday season
Here are a few things we can remember this holiday season to make us feel more fulfilled and less overwhelmed:

1) Take Responsibility for Your Experience. It's important to remember that stress we experience during the holiday season does not come from the holidays, but from ourselves. We're the creators of our own experience—remembering this, and living our lives from this perspective, empowers us. When we stop thinking, speaking and acting as if we're mere victims of holiday madness, we can dramatically enhance our enjoyment and lower our stress.

2) Remember That You Have a Choice. We always have a choice about how we engage with anything. This holiday season we can choose to be annoyed by family members, obligations, forced work gatherings, crowds, prices or anything else. Or, we can choose to enjoy the magic of this time of year. We may not always get to choose the people and circumstances around us, but we always have a choice about how we relate to them. Our holiday experience is up to us, as it always is.

3) Focus on What You Appreciate About the Holidays. Consciously choose to focus on the things that you appreciate about the holiday season. Tell the truth about this to yourself and to those around you. If at all possible, don't participate in work or family gatherings out of obligation. But regardless of where you are, what you do or whom you are with, make a commitment to appreciate the people around you and the many blessings of this season and in your life right now.

Even when things are challenging, we always have much to be grateful for. At this time of the year, we can take a step back, breathe deeply and experience the gratitude we have for our lives, for the people in them, and for ourselves. If not now, then when?

While there are always things for us to do, gifts to buy, gatherings to attend and much more going on at this time of year, we can choose to enjoy this holiday season as one filled with authentic peace, gratitude and joy. If we're willing to look for, find and focus on what we appreciate.

Mike Robbins is a best-selling author, sought-after motivational keynote speaker and personal growth expert who works with people and groups of all kinds. Robbins is the author of the best-selling books Focus on the Good Stuff and Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken. He and his work have been featured on ABC News, in Forbes, Ladies Home Journal, Self and many others.

How do you stay grounded during the holiday season? What do you most appreciate during this time of year? Share your thoughts.

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