One word. Describe your holiday stress in one word. What’s yours? Finances? Finances are a major life stressor. Gift-giving?Family?

I’ve got a theory about family and the holidays.

See, family, they go around all the time not voicing their opinions and the minute, the instant, they feel safe, that’s when they feel it’s necessary to share their opinions about EVERYTHING. Because, realistically, they know you’ll still love them. Besides, they know you have to get back together with them next holiday. We can use a million different adjectives to describe it, but in reality, I think that all this holiday stress, most of our stress really, boils down to one word: expectations.

There are holiday expectations about gift giving, about what we feel we should receive. Sometimes they’re even unconscious.There’s an expectation about finances, about how much you should spend on a particular person. There’s a definite expectation when it comes to family during the holidays.

My father, he lives in Oklahoma all by himself and he’s mostly only sad about it on Thanksgiving. Why? Because holidays come with all these assumptions about how things are supposed to go. And all these expectations create a stressful situation during the holidays and all through the year.

So how can we decrease our stress this coming year?

Here’s the secret: Instead of setting expectations for other’s behavior, set expectations for your own!

Much as we’d love to sometimes, we can’t change how someone is going to respond to a given situation, but we are very much in control of our own reactions. Adjusting your expectations makes it about you, your behavior and your sense of psychology, your happiness, not about gifts, not about score keeping, not about who’s there, who’s not there, or who did what. And that is powerful!

Let’s take back the power in our life by adjusting our expectations. It’s amazing what a small shift in perspective can do!