Let's be honest. The six weeks between "getting ready for Thanksgiving" and "putting away the Christmas decorations" are some of the most tiring and stressful of the year. Most women feel exhausted just thinking about them.

But does it have to be this way? Does "the most wonderful time of the year" always have to turn into "the most stressful time of the year?" I don't think it does. At the very least, it doesn't have to become six weeks of total stress and complete fatigue. I think that we, as women, wives and mothers, have the power to make it more wonderful and less stressful. But we need to acknowledge and understand that power, then harness it to benefit ourselves and our families.

If you're yearning for a holiday season that's more about family, fun and joy, and less about obligations, money and stress, here are 5 things you can do to move in that direction. Consider taking these steps to enjoy the holidays now, before things really start to get crazy.

1. Figure out what you and your husband really want

What does an ideal Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas look like to you? What does it look like to your husband? Talk about it openly and honestly, and listen to what he has to say. Don't be surprised if your ideal holidays and his look very different. For example, decorating the entire house may be important to you, but mean nothing to him. And watching football with his family after Thanksgiving dinner may get him in the holiday spirit, but bore you to tears. So bring all of your hopes and expectations out in the open, and encourage him to do the same.

2. Establish your priorities

Now that you know what's important to both of you, establish priorities for your family. Make a list of the three or four things that are most important to each of you. Maybe for your husband it's spending relaxed time as a family and choosing gifts that will allow the family to have fun together. Maybe for you it's starting the holiday season with a clean, uncluttered house and entertaining small groups of friends. Let each other know, "This is what's most important to me over the next few weeks." Then agree to honor each other's priorities and make them happen. And recognize that, in doing this, each of you will probably have to forgo two or three of your "favorites." If you don't, you'll be right back to trying to do everything and driving yourself crazy.

3. Let go of things that don't fit your priorities

This is where things start to get difficult

In order to create the kind of holiday season you and your husband envision for your family, some things will have to go. You can't attend every event, accept every invitation, make every gift, create every craft, and decorate every inch of the house - not if you want to relax a bit and enjoy the things you determined are most important. Obviously, some activities are required - your children's Christmas program, your boss's holiday drop-in, shopping for gifts, cooking holiday meals. But some are not. So you may have to say no to your neighbor's dessert buffet, your aunt's Christmas cantata, your daughter's friend's skating party, or your sister-in-law's all-day shopping trip. Because you can't do everything, and this year you want to do the things that will make the season fun, relaxing and memorable for your family.

4. Plan the activities you really want to do

Choose one or two activities that each family member especially enjoys and schedule them now. Put them on your calendar, because that's the only way to make sure they happen. (In addition, when other things come up, this strategy allows you to say, "Sorry, we already have something scheduled.") Maybe your son likes to go for a hay ride and cut down the perfect Christmas tree, your daughter enjoys seeing the lights display at the local zoo, your husband wants to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and drink hot chocolate, and you love for the entire family to bake cookies together. Schedule those things and other favorite activities now; that way, you're certain to make room for them in your busy schedule.

5. Ask for and accept help

Chances are, your husband doesn't want you to drive yourself crazy over the next few weeks. And more than likely, he wants to help in ways that will prevent that from happening. But you'll have to tell him what you need. Yes, it would be great if he could just figure it out on his own, but he probably won't. Not because he's dumb, but because he's not you. So ask for help, then let him do what needs to be done. For example, for many years my husband has shopped for the Christmas gifts for our sons. We always talk about what we want to get for them, but then he does the shopping. Great - that's one less thing on my list. He's willing to help with other things too. I just need to ask, then get out of the way and let him do those things. Your husband is probably willing to do the same.

This article is an excerpt from Gaye Groover Christmus' free ebook, 75 Healthy Ideas for Your Life and Marriage this Christmas. It has been republished here with permission.

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