I was beating the streets to get a head start on my holiday list. Dreading the downright meanness Christmas shopping often creates, it occurred to me this should be the time to focus on the importance of selfless giving and celebrating the precious gift of heaven—Jesus Christ.

Instead, I was running around with little money and little time, stressing out in an effort to bring ultimate happiness and peace to the people I love by satisfying their material longings.

The irony was as glaring as a fresh blanket of snow in the Christmas morning light.

To help myself remain sane, and hopefully help you, too, I came up with a quick list of ways we could lessen the stress and reprioritize our hearts.

1. Be patient.

Since my children were small, I have given them an easy-to-understand definition of patience: “waiting without complaining.” The holiday season simply demands a lot of finger-tapping—traffic is heavier, check-out lines are longer, mail takes more time. But complaining about it only makes it harder for everyone, even yourself.

So plan on allowing for more time, no matter what you set out to do. Not only will it help your schedule, it will improve your attitude as well.

2. Get organized.

You may feel like you don’t have time to plan, but taking an hour (maybe during a Christmas movie) will be a worthy investment that can change your entire holiday season for the better. Disorganization always takes more time and leaves you frustrated.

Create a gift list for each family member, and organize the lists according to stores. Combine the stores by which area of town they reside in. This will keep you from wasting time and also help you budget your money.

Prepare for long trips. Before you head off to grandma’s house, put together a list of needs, including games and activities for the children to play in the car on the way there.

3. Spread Christmas cheer.

I don’t mean you have to act like Buddy the Elf. Just be nice!

Smiles are contagious, and nothing makes the season warmer than a kind, sincere “Merry Christmas!” As you shop and run errands, notice the people around you. Don’t get so bogged down you forget to be cordial. As Solomon reminds us, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

4. Forget perfect.

You don’t have to have the perfect house, perfect menu, or perfect gifts. Christmas is about celebrating Christ with family and friends, not creating an atmosphere.

Ten years from now, no one will remember what decorations you had on your tree or how the table was set, but they will remember how well you loved them and treated them. They will remember laughter and hugs. Accept that you will not have the perfect Christmas, and it’s okay.

That’s especially important if you are in a blended family like me. If your idea of Christmas looks like something in a Disney movie, it’s time to redefine what Christmas means for you. It’s okay to think outside the box.

One blended family celebrates Christmas in July—Christmas tree, stockings, decorations, and everything. Mom turns down the air conditioner and breaks out the hot cocoa. That way, this mom gets to have Christmas her way. Then in December, everyone is free to scratch her home off the list. Think about how you can recreate Christmas to fit your family’s needs.

5. Take time to relax.

Get the family together for a Christmas movie. Make some popcorn, warm up the hot chocolate, turn out the lights, and enjoy. Take out the family photo albums or home videos and reminisce memories of days gone by. Or have someone read aloud a classic Christmas story, such as A Christmas Carol or The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever.

The slow pace will help your mind and body rest from all the hustle and bustle and help you recharge for the days to come.

6. Resolve conflicts quickly and graciously.

The pressure that comes with Christmas can often create tension among family members and only make holiday stress worse. But being at peace with those around you will lighten the load.

Often, resolving conflict is as easy as prevention. Have a spirit that is quick to forgive, longsuffering, and slow to anger. And when you wrong someone else, don’t hold on to stubborn pride—admit your fault and ask for forgiveness.

7. Don’t stop praying.

I’ve heard it said that busyness is one of the devil’s greatest tools. If he can distract you with activity, then you will be too busy to pray.

Unfortunately, even though Christmas is supposed to be a time of reflection and gratefulness to our Father for the Son, it can be one of the most spiritually shallow times of year. But it is only through our communion with the Holy Spirit that we find a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). If you want to live a stress-free life during the holidays, it can only come through communion with the One who has brought us peace.

There are many opportunities for prayer during the holiday season. Pray for the people in the traffic jam. Pray for the clerks while you wait in line. (Talk about a stressful life.) As you write Christmas cards, pray for each person on your mailing list individually.

And last, but not least, pray on Christmas morning, before you open gifts. Thank God for all the ways He has blessed you and your family, and thank Him for all the gifts He has given us through His Son.

Copyright © 2018 by Sabrina McDonald. Used with permission.