bigstock-147426923Why is it that as the days start counting down to the holidays, many people find their blood pressure going up?

One reason is that along with eggnog and festive decorations, the holiday season can bring pressure. After all, think of all the things you have to do — you wouldn’t want to ruin someone’s holidays by leaving them off your gift list or letting them go underfed, would you?

These obligations can make the holidays feel less like a time of celebratory good spirits and more like a mad dash to the finish line of the season, accompanied by the frenetic, interminable soundtrack of “Jingle Bells” playing over and over, faster and faster.

OK, deep breath. Now here’s a subversive thought: all these things you have to do, what if you don’t actually have to do them?

Yes, it might seem like the world could end if you didn’t send out holiday cards this year or if you scrapped the tradition of cooking everyone’s favorite dishes and turned Christmas dinner into a potluck — but this is 2016, stranger things have happened.

More importantly, you might find that taking an axe to those holiday traditions that are bringing you more anxiety than happiness makes things more fun for everybody. Remember, the holidays are a communal experience: if one person feels stressed out, it’s going to negatively impact everyone’s mood.

This is a case of less is more. That might be a cliche, but hey, the holidays are all about cliches, so I think we’re on solid ground here. Anyway, my point is that a simpler holiday season is a more relaxed holiday season, which is more enjoyable for everyone.

If you find yourself feeling like you need to stress yourself out for the sake of holiday cheer, take a moment and reconsider. First, your wellbeing is just as important as that family tradition of celebrating the holidays with six different flavors of homemade pies. And second, your holiday stress will likely have opposite its intended effect on the festivities.

In this Ask the Therapist video, Marie Hartwell-Walker and Daniel Tomasulo talk about something they’ve addressed many times with their clients around this time of year: the “holiday have-tos” and what you can do about them. Watch the video below, and see the Psych Central YouTube channel for more tips on managing stress: