Help for Holiday Madness

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What Makes It Feel Like Christmas for You?

Home for the Holidays

There are things you must do in order for it to feel like the holidays, and there are things you think you're supposed to do -- but don't really like. Distinguish between them. When you're already sleep deprived, it's easy to exhaust yourself.

For instance, it obviously won't feel like the holidays without presents -- but do you really need matching bows and tags if tracking them down is driving you crazy? Wrap the gifts, write the recipient's name on each one, and be done. Lose the little things that stress you out. Take a step back. Relax.

Focus on your own happiness for a minute. Try to pick the one thing that brings you the most joy during the holidays, and find a way to do it. Baking cookies? Watching It's a Wonderful Life? Going to see the local production of The Nutcracker? Gallaudet Howard, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, swears that this year she'll hire a babysitter so she and her husband can have a celebratory meal together at a restaurant -- a simple goal, but one that would make her happy.

For me, I had no idea how important it was to sit down to my family's Christmas dinner until I couldn't do it. My first Christmas as a new mom, as everyone sat down, Jimmy began wailing. Shushing him did no good. I had to take him upstairs, where I sang and paced and bounced him. I could hear everyone laughing and talking below. Nobody noticed I was missing, it seemed. I began to cry.

Five minutes later, there was knock at the door. It was my mother. "It can be lonely having a baby, can't it?" she said. She sat next to me on the bed. "Let me take him. You go downstairs with everyone." That's a gift only another mother would have known to give.

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